In Illinois, the parties are entitled to have the jury instructed on the issues presented, the principles of law to be applied, and the necessary facts to be proved to support its verdict. The decision to give or deny an instruction is within the trial court's discretion. The standard for determining an abuse of discretion is whether, taken as a whole, the instructions are sufficiently clear so as not to mislead and whether they fairly and correctly state the law.
Plaintiff patient sued, inter alia, defendants, doctor and hospital, alleging medical malpractice. The doctor left a portion of a catheter in the patient's chest. Medical experts agreed that removing the catheter was more risky than leaving it in, but the latter course entailed risks (albeit small) of possibly serious complications. A jury awarded the patient $ 1.5 million for past pain and suffering, $ 1.5 million for future pain and suffering, and $ 500,000 for the increased risk of future injuries. The doctor and hospital appealed. The Illinois intermediate appellate court affirmed the judgment, and the doctor and hospital sought further review. The patient's damages award for the increased risk of future injury was reversed, and the cause was remanded to the trial court for a new trial solely on that element of damages.
Did the trial court abuse its discretion in allowing plaintiff to file her fifth amended complaint?
The supreme court found no error in the trial court's (1) allowing plaintiff to amend the complaint to allege improper insertion of the catheter, as the jury returned a general verdict against defendants on the negligence claim, and defendants failed to submit any special interrogatories; and (2) instructing the jury on res ipsa loquitur against the doctor, as the jury returned separate verdicts against him on both negligence and res ipsa loquitur, and the evidence supported the negligence verdict. The supreme court adopted the minority rule, which held that a tort claimant could recover for an increased risk of future injury, even if such injury were improbable. But the award of such damages in the case could not stand, as the jury instruction failed to advise the jury that the increased risk had to be based on evidence and not speculation, and that the size of the award had to reflect the probability of occurrence.