Law School Case Brief
Myers v. Heritage Enters. - 354 Ill. App. 3d 241, 289 Ill. Dec. 828, 820 N.E.2d 604 (2004)
It is within the discretion of the trial court which jury instructions to give to the jury, and the court's decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion. Whether a trial court abused its discretion depends on whether, taken as a whole, the instructions fairly, fully, and comprehensively apprised the jury of the relevant legal principles. Reversal is warranted if the faulty jury instructions misled the jury and resulted in prejudice to the appellant.
Two certified nursing assistants (CNA) dropped a 78-year-old patient when transferring her from a bed to a wheelchair, fracturing the patient's tibia and fibula on both legs. The patient died approximately two weeks later of unrelated causes. There were no allegations that the fall contributed to her death. Nevertheless, plaintiff executor of the patient's estate filed an action against defendant nursing home under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The trial court instructed the jury on professional malpractice, which required the jury to determine if the standard of care had been met from expert testimony. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of the nursing home, the executor appealed.
Did the trial court err in its instructions on professional malpractice?
The Appellate Court of Illinois determined that the appropriate standard of care for liability under the Act was one of ordinary negligence, which did not require expert testimony. In addition, the act of CNAs in moving a patient did not constitute skilled medical care requiring a professional negligence instruction. The instructions misled the jury and resulted in prejudice to the executor because the ruling was made on the last day of the trial. Consequently, the trial court abused its discretion by instructing the jury on professional negligence rather than ordinary negligence. The Court also determined that the argument given by defense counsel was improper because it invited the jury to disregard the law and decide the case based on the worth of the executor. Therefore, the decision of the trial court was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial.
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