In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, a woman died while in the care of a nursing home, and the woman’s daughter filed a wrongful death claim against the nursing home, alleging medical malpractice. In response, the nursing home filed a motion for summary judgment to have the case dismissed because the woman failed to designate an expert witness.
The woman then designated two expert witnesses. Subsequently, the court granted summary judgment because although the woman designated the experts, she failed to produce sworn expert testimony. The woman then filed sworn expert testimony by filing affidavits from the expert witnesses and requested a reconsideration of the judgment. The court denied the reconsideration motion. Under that state’s rules, sworn expert testimony is required in medical malpractice cases, and it is necessary to survive summary judgment.
The woman appealed and argued that the dismissal of the case was too harsh a sanction for a “discovery violation.” However, the court stated that the court did not impose sanctions because of her failure to follow discovery rules. Instead, the court dismissed the case because of a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant, and she had failed to provide sufficient evidence to survive a motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the state’s supreme court agreed with the decision and affirmed the dismissal.
What is Discovery?
Discovery is a pre-trial process during which parties can obtain evidence from other parties. Common discovery tools are interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, and depositions. Discovery allows parties to find out more about the claim and to prepare and evaluate their case. Parties and attorneys must comply with discovery rules and act in good faith.
Discovery Rules and Sanctions in Illinois
The scope of discovery in Illinois is broad. That means that parties can generally discover any relevant information that is admissible (can be admitted in court) or could lead to admissible evidence. In other words, if something is relevant in a case, it is usually discoverable.
Parties involved in a case and their attorneys must comply with discovery rules, and a failure to do so can result in harsh sanctions, or penalties, as in the case above. Trial courts have a great deal of discretion in imposing sanctions. Dismissing a case or barring witnesses or testimony is a drastic response, and courts have said this should only be used as a last resort. However, it may be warranted in some cases. If a trial court imposes sanctions, an appeal will only reverse the decision if the trial court “abused its discretion”—a high standard to meet. Thus, if a party in a case fails to follow the rules, this can result in harsh sanctions that are unlikely to be reversed.
Have You Suffered an Injury?
If you have a suffered an injury, either from negligent medical care or otherwise, you may be entitled to compensation. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group are skilled at guiding people through medical malpractice, product liability, motor vehicle collision, and other accident claims. We represent victims throughout the Chicago area, and we can also bring product liability cases in other states nationwide. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to set up a free initial consultation.
See More Posts:
Woman Injured on Icy Hotel Sidewalk Fails to Provide Evidence of Hotel’s Duty to Train Employees, Must Retry Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, July 9, 2016.
Court Finds Nursing Home Waived Its Right to Arbitration Despite Signed Arbitration Clause, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2016.
Court Dismisses Case After Failure to Pay Filing Fee Within Statute of Limitations, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, June 25, 2016.