Chicago Office Secures Defense Verdict for Physical Therapist, Acute Rehab Facility in Wrongful Death Case

Chicago, Ill. (April 10, 2024) – Chicago Partners Charles Cole and Maggie Fitzsimmons obtained a complete defense verdict on behalf of a physical therapist and acute rehab facility in a wrongful death case in Cook County court, following a two-week trial. 

The claim arose from the plaintiff's contention that a post-stroke victim being treated at the facility was allowed to sit on a commode unattended for a brief moment, which led to a fall.  The plaintiff claimed that the fall from the commode caused the patient to develop an acute subdural hematoma, which rapidly expanded, resulting in coma and death.  

Mr. Cole and Ms. Fitzsimmons successfully argued that the fact that the physical therapist was not at arm’s length of the patient on the commode was reasonable and not a deviation from the applicable Standard of Care.  Instead, they contended that the fall from the commode was unexpected and unforeseeable. Critically, they were also able to show that the patient had a pre-existing sub-acute subdural hematoma that was already expanding and would have continued to expand even if the fall had never happened. 

Essentially, Mr. Cole and Ms. Fitzsimmons contended that the fall only had a temporal connection but not a causal connection to the expanding bleed, stressing that  “correlation does not mean causation.”

The plaintiff's counsel in closing asked the jury for $26 million in damages. The jury deliberated only 40 minutes before rendering a complete defense verdict for Lewis Brisbois’ clients.  The result marked Mr. Cole and Ms. Fitzsimmons’ fourth successful outcome by verdict or directed verdict in 2024.

Mr. Cole is a member of the Medical Malpractice Department, and spends the majority his time defending physicians and other healthcare providers. He has tried more than 80 cases to verdict involving multi-million-dollar exposures. His practice areas and trial experience include medical malpractice, professional liability, complex construction matters, amusement claims, commercial litigation, transportation negligence, and general liability defense.

Ms. Fitzsimmons is a member of the Medical Malpractice Department. Her practice also involves the representation of professionals including architects, engineers, and attorneys. She also has actively represented clients in general liability matters, class action litigation, and products liability cases. After admission to the Illinois Bar, Ms. Fitzsimmons has spent her career trying complex and significant matters to verdict in Illinois as well as many other states, both in state and federal courts.

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