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Beating Grief with Gratitude: Finding Happiness After a Loss

“Happiness is not about what the world gives you, it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.”

Google executive, Mo Gawdat, made this keen observation in a video about his equation for finding happiness in the face of tragedy. View video.

Like many of my clients, his life changed in an instant—from a happy family holiday to the realization of his worst fears, the death of his son, all in the span of four hours. He describes the power we have over how we choose to see our lives and manage our expectations. He takes the “glass half full” approach and challenges us to be grateful for what is in the glass and ask the question, can we do anything about the half empty part?

Nothing this loving father could do would bring his son back. Rather than burrow inward and become paralyzed by his loss, he chose to accept life as it is, take each day and make it slightly better. As an advocate for victims of tragedy, this is a recurring theme in my work. Nothing—no dollar amount, no oral argument, no jury verdict or judgment can turn back time, bring a victim of wrongful death back or make one who is personally injured whole again. Victims who seek this unattainable expectation will never find it, particularly in the justice system.

It is my job, and my privilege, frankly, to manage expectations as I pave the way to ease the burden to ensure the sense of contentment and happiness comes more swiftly to my clients. When we team up with victims and their loved ones on the road to recovery, plaintiff’s attorneys are essentially executing Mr. Gawdat’s plan to make each day incrementally better so our clients can see all the water, even if it’s in a different glass.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we all should give a bit more credence to gratitude not only for what we have, but also for what we do not.

The victims of wrongful conduct are often saddled with lifelong disabilities and deprivations from which most us have been fortunately spared. Such wrongful conduct deserves rightful compensation. This does not necessarily mean that injured victims are thereby made whole again; they often never can be. However, a system of justice that seeks to alleviate some of their anxieties and fears affords them a chance to focus on the beauty in what they had while they had it and to wake up every day with an eye toward making their futures just a little bit better. Hopefully, then one day, they may wake up feeling like they never thought they would feel again: happy.

Attorney Laird M. Ozmon

Medical Malpractice Attorneys Ignore Pleading Hospital’s Institutional Negligence at Their Peril

Photo of Gavel and stethascope portraying Medical Malpractice Attorneys Ignore Pleading Hospital’s Institutional Negligence at Their Peril

Medical malpractice cases are no picnic. Of course, they are most taxing for the injured patients and their loved ones. As advocates for them, plaintiff’s attorneys willingly bear the burden of putting on the most powerful, effective case for plaintiffs. What that looks like varies with each case.

It is no secret that we are looking for at least one, if not more than one, deep pocket to ensure our client’s full recovery. Oftentimes it feels like a game of CLUE, “was it the surgeon, in the operating room, with the retractor” or “the nurse practitioner, in the emergency room, with the syringe?” The experts we enlist to evaluate the case are so focused on the players coming to life in the patient medical record, they might not immediately consider the policies and procedures put in place by the hospital that set the series of unfortunate events in motion. This is the stuff of institutional negligence, and it is powerful indeed.

Under Illinois law, hospitals and HMOs may be liable for acts of negligence as an entity, not those of their employees or agents; these institutions have an independent duty to assume responsibility for the care of their patients. Darling v. Charleston Community Memorial Hospital, 33 Ill.2d 326 (1965) and Jones v. Chicago HMO Ltd. of Illinois, 191 Ill. 2d 278 (2000). This includes enacting polices and procedures to meet that duty. For example, institutional negligence may come to light in a hospital policy that prevented vital information from getting to those treating the patient in a timely manner. So when the hospital is aggressively disassociating itself from its physician staff arguing they are not its agents and pointing to its airtight consent form to prove it, plaintiffs attorneys need to be unearthing every stone to establish the managerial and administrative actions that focus the blame right back on the entity.

A hospital’s institutional negligence should be explored from the inception of every medical malpractice case. Even if the initial expert evaluation and opinion does not reveal it, this theory should be revisited once discovery commences. Plead it in a separate count, not in a count with the negligent acts of the hospital’s employees or agents under a respondeat superior theory. I am not alone in imagining the feeling of dread when the specter of a hospital’s institutional negligence comes to light well after the statute of limitations has run. If you haven’t even considered it, relating such claims back to the original filing of the complaint is not a lay-up by any stretch. See Franklin v. Little Co. of Mary Hosp., 2017 IL App (1st) 161858-U (allegations of hospital staffing issues or its failure to have properly functioning equipment in its emergency room that first came to light on deposition did not relate back to original claims).

So remember to include institutional negligence on your list of medical malpractice suspects. This makes it all the more likely the mystery will be solved like it has been for me for years: it was Mr. Ozmon, in the courtroom, with the verdict in the millions for the plaintiff.

Attorney Laird M. Ozmon

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