How a Lake County Hospital Fell Apart During the Covid Pandemic and Allowed a Young Mother to Die

On January 22, 2024, The Lewis Law Firm went to trial in a medical malpractice case on behalf of a family whose mother/wife died as a result of medical negligence. There were multiple defendants in the case, including one of the largest hospitals in Lake County Illinois. 

Founding Partner Brian Lewis took on four Chicago-based law firms who arrived with multiple attorneys and staff.  The jury trial took place in the largest, ceremonial courtroom in the new Waukegan courthouse (capacity > 100). 

After jury selection and immediately following Brian’s opening statement, all defendants caved and offered $4.95 million dollars to settle the case. 

A unique aspect of this case was that it involved the COVID pandemic and how the hospital ended up providing – or not providing as the case would be – the medical care the plaintiff desperately needed. 

The plaintiff, a 49-year-old, healthy woman, went to the hospital in December 2020 with stomach pain. She ended up needing to have her gallbladder removed, which was easily done in a routine surgery that ended at 7:30 p.m. She was kept overnight due to the late hour, and that’s when things started to go south. 

The plaintiff began bleeding internally within an hour after surgery. The overnight staff at the hospital was supposed to be on the lookout for this “recognized risk” of the surgery, but the bleeding was missed. The Plaintiff died ten hours later with five (5) liters of blood in her abdomen. 

Due to the Covid pandemic, the hospital was understaffed. No doctor saw the plaintiff in person all night long.  One doctor saw the plaintiff on a camera for less than 10 minutes. Three other doctors only participated in plaintiff’s care over the phone. 

Communication in these types of situations is key. And the lack of adequate communication here resulted in the patient’s death. 

At trial, each defendant blamed the other.  No doctor accepted that the plaintiff was their patient, instead claiming they were all just “consultants” and someone else was actually in charge. That “someone else” was never identified.  Surprisingly, the doctors admitted that they never even considered talking with each other about the patient to confirm who was handling the different aspects of her care. Assumptions were made and the result was that a loving mother/wife slowly bled to death over ten hours. 

In hindsight, it would have been better if the patient was sent home at 7:30 p.m. because her family would have rushed her back to the emergency room overnight when she started having complications. In the ER, she would have been seen in person by a doctor who would have easily diagnosed the obvious condition of internal bleeding. 

So, this is a real-world example of how the Covid pandemic was tied to medical negligence. Without enough doctors physically present in the hospital to see patients, people did not get the care they needed and died. The hospital did not have an adequate system in place to keep patients safe.   

The result was tragic.   

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