JOLIET, Ill. (CBS)
A weight-loss surgery turned into a nightmare and cost a woman both of her legs.
CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini examines allegations that she was not properly monitored or treated, in part, because she was hospitalized during a holiday.
Life for Mary Beth Ruphard has changed drastically since last Thanksgiving. Weighing 278 pounds, she went to Provena St. Joseph Medical Center, in Joliet, for surgery to beat her battle with obesity.
“I just wanted to live longer, live better you know, said Ruphard. “I had diabetes (and) hypertension as my risk factors.”
Ruphard had weight-loss surgery in early November, then was back in the hospital for surgery to repair a perforation. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, she started complaining about her legs.
“I did complain to a nurse,” said Ruphard. “I say, ‘my legs, they are aching and they are tingling.’”
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Personal injury claims include motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall cases such as falls on sidewalks, in stores, restaurants, or other premises, products liability for defective or unsafe products, professional negligence such as the negligence of a doctor or dentist, and other incidents that result in injury to the person. Personal injury may also include an injury to your reputation such as defamation when someone states something false about you to another person. It is important to retain a qualified personal injury attorney to represent you.
We want you to know what happens once you have entrusted your personal injury claim to us.
First we conduct a thorough investigation of your claim. This investigation will include obtaining all of the documentation of the incident and your injury, photographs and videos, as well as contacting any witnesses and obtaining their statements. We may consult with your treating physicians to determine your prognosis for recovery. We will also seek to determine if there is any insurance coverage and the amount of the coverage.
After completing our initial investigation, if we deem it appropriate we will contact the representative for the other party’s insurance company to attempt to settle the claim before filing a lawsuit. You must have completed your medical treatment and been given your prognosis by your physician before we can negotiate a settlement on your behalf. We will not settle the case without your authority.
If we are unable to reach a settlement, we will prepare and file a complaint against all potentially culpable defendants and place summons for service on the defendants with the sheriff. This initiates the lawsuit.
The defendants have a period of time to answer the complaint after they are served with the summons and complaint, usually thirty days. The defendant may answer the complaint or file a motion to dismiss if they believe they have grounds to defeat the lawsuit at the early stages. If the court denies the motion to dismiss, the parties are at issue and the case proceeds in court.
The parties then initiate discovery. This is a process of investigation where each party may obtain information from the opposing party and any witnesses on their behalf that may be used at trial. Discovery takes the form of written interrogatories, production requests, and requests to admit as well as oral discovery that consists of taking testimony of all parties and witnesses via deposition. We work hard to prepare you and make you comfortable when you give your deposition during discovery.
During the course of discovery it may be necessary for each side to retain a paid expert witness to testify on some aspect of the case. For instance, we may have to obtain an expert witness to testify that your injuries are permanent, or that the product you were injured by was defective, or that the defendant physician was negligent. The expenses for experts testifying on your behalf will be paid out of your recovery according to your contract with us.
After discovery is completed the judge sets a trial date. The judge may also recommend mediation or a pre-trial settlement conference. The amount of time between the filing of the lawsuit and the actual trial date varies greatly depending upon the extent of the injury, the number of witnesses, the court calendar, and other variables. In many cases, the process takes a minimum of two years. Notwithstanding this, the parties can engage in settlement negotiations at any time and the case may be resolved to your satisfaction before trial.
You can be assured that we will work tirelessly to minimize the stress of the litigation and get your case to a swift and satisfying conclusion.
#1 CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES.
Depending on the type and location of the injury, you should contact the police or notify the manager of the premises immediately following the injury. Make sure that you obtain contact information for the authorities to obtain any documentation of the incident.
#2 GET MEDICAL ATTENTION.
You should seek medical attention immediately.
#3 FOLLOW YOUR DOCTORS’ COURSE OF TREATMENT.
Once you have addressed your immediate medical needs after the accident, make sure that you follow medical advice and follow-up with your physician and/or any physicians to whom you were referred as directed.
#4 CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE CARRIER.
If you have insurance coverage that might apply such as automobile insurance, contact your insurance carrier to notify them of the incident.
#5 DO NOT SPEAK TO ANYONE REPRESENTING THE OTHER PARTY INVOLVED.
Oftentimes representatives from the insurance company for the other party or the other party herself will contact you, do not under any circumstances speak to anyone. The first person you should speak to is an attorney who you seek to hire to represent you and look out for your interests.
#6 PRESERVE THE EVIDENCE.
After you have received the proper medical attention and taken care of yourself make sure that you preserve any evidence that might be relevant to the cause of the accident, the injuries that were suffered as a result of the accident, property damage, and the location and circumstances of the accident. This could include photographs or videos of you and the injuries, the scene, the vehicles or objects involved, copies of medical records, police reports, names and phone numbers of witnesses, and anything else that you believe might have bearing on your case. It is also wise to keep a journal of the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as the limitations you have suffered as a result of your injuries.
#7 CONTACT A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY AT YOUR EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY.
The sooner you retain a personal injury attorney, the sooner your rights and interests will be protected to give you the best advantage in recovering monetary compensation for your personal injury. Remember you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit under state law so the sooner you retain an attorney and get him working for you the better. We are happy to meet with you for a free consultation at your home or in the office when it is most convenient.
In a heart-breaking case, the Illinois Appellate Court has decided that a six-week-old newborn who died of bacterial meningitis had no patient-relationship with the hospital that advised her parents to give her Tylenol and call her doctor in the morning. Even though the child had been a patient at the hospital on four recent occasions, and her mother called seeking medical advice after being unable to reach her pediatrician, there was no such relationship and the hospital had no duty to the child for purposes of pursing a medical malpractice case. In rendering such a decision the court will consider whether the patient knowingly seeks a physician’s services and the physician knowingly accepts patient. The court viewed the fact that the hospital representative dispensed medical advice as deficient to prove that he knowingly accepted the child as a patient. This is simply not enough to create a physician-patient relationship. The result would have been different had her pediatrician’s office given the advice since they had an ongoing relationship. This case serves as a reminder that hospitals cannot substitute for the ongoing physician-patient relationship. If you have no access to a regular physician and you or a loved one needs medical care you need to seek care in person, you can’t phone it in.
Estate of Kundert v. Illinois Valley Community Hospital, No. 3-11-0007 (Ill. App. Ct. 3rd Dist., January 10, 2012).
The Herald News
After two days of deliberations, a Will County Circuit Court jury returned a $2 million verdict Tuesday night for a Joliet carpenter who suffered severe left hand injuries on a power saw.
The verdict for Robert Stukel, 52, of 631 Bethel Drive was against Black & Decker Corp. of Towson, Md
Stukel’s lawyer, Laird Ozmon, asked for $2.4 million damages in the product liability case.
The jury awarded that sum when it reported the verdict to Associate Judge Thomas Ewert after a total of 21 hours of deliberations. But the jury reduced the amount by 18 percent for Stukel’s contributory fault. The verdict can be appealed by the defendant.
Stukel was using a 10-inch Black & Decker miter saw when the accident occurred June 11, 1986, on a site for medical offices at 2 Uno Circle. One third of his palm and thumb were amputated.
Doctors at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park resewed the thumb with microsurgery, Ozmon said.
Stukel’s index finger had to be amputated a year later in one of eight hand surgeries.
The suit charged negligence because the company failed to put a right-side guard on the saw. The inventor, Donald Clark, testified he told company officials the device needed a right-side guard as well as one on the left side.
Clark said the company wanted to get the saw on the market in a hurry. He said he could not figure how to put on the guard and have the saw cut 2-by-4 lumber on edge. He said the company then told him to drop the idea.
Defense lawyer Daniel Kennedy told the jurors even if there had been a right-side guard, the accident would not have been prevented because of the manner in which Stukel was using the saw.
Daniel Montague, a Black and Decker safety expert, testified the supplemental guard would not have made any difference. He said the saw, was certified safe for use by Underwriter Laboratories.
The saw was bought in 1978. In 1982, four years before Stukel’s injury, Underwriters Laboratories changed standards, requiring the guard. Black & Decker did not recall the saw or notify purchasers of the new requirement, Ozmon said.
By CRIS CARMODY
Law Bulletin staff writer
A federal jury has ordered Black & Decker to pay $12 million – including $10 million in punitive damages – to a man whose left hand was nearly severed in an accident involving one of the company’s power saws.
The jury also awarded 50-year old bricklayer Jerry Ross $2 million in compensatory damages for the injury. U.S. District Judge George Marovich presided in the case.
Ross’s attorney, Laird Ozmon of Joliet, argued that the Black & Decker 10-inch Power Miter Box Saw (Model No. 7717, Type 1) was unreasonably dangerous because it was manufactured and sold without a right side lower blade guard.
Black & Decker’s attorney, Aligmantas Kezelis of French, Kezelis & Kominiarek in Chicago, countered that “no injury has ever occurred where the absence of the guard had anything to do with it.”
The power saw had guards on its upper right and left blades and lower left blade.
A former Black & Decker designer who worked on the saw, told the jury the saw was unreasonably dangerous without the lower right blade guard. He also said that he could have designed the appropriate guard if the company had given him enough time.
Kezelis said Black & Decker is considering appealing the verdict. “There is no condition in the product that made it dangerous. The product was safe,” he said.
Ross nearly amputated his hand while doing trim work on a house in 1983, according to Ozmon’s associate, James P. Stevenson. He was cutting molding at a full right 45-degree angle, and his hand drifted into the lower part of the right side of the blade. His hand was left hanging by a two-inch flap of skin, Stevenson said.
Ross’s hand has been re-planted, but doctors say he only has about 40 percent use of it. Members of the Will County bricklayers union, of which Ross was a member, testified that he is now unemployable as a bricklayer.
In 1982, Underwriters Laboratory mandated that all saws have a double-sided lower guard in order to receive UL approval, noted Stevenson.
Black & Decker sold at least 70,000 miter saws with single-sided blade guards between 1979 and 1982, Stevenson estimated. The saws have been sold with double-sided blades since 1982, he added.
Stevenson said he personally knows of at least four other injuries stemming from the unguarded right lower blade.
But Kezelis said that the unguarded lower right blade on the saws has not caused any injuries.
According to Ozmon, Black & Decker made no offer to settle the case. Ozmon asked the jury for about $2 million in compensatory damages and $10 to $20 million in Punitive damages.
The case was originally filed in Will County Circuit Court in 1990. Kezelis removed it to U.S. District Court later that year, Jerry L. Ross v. Black & Decker, Inc., No. 90 C 4439.