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$11.8 million settlement Okd in medical malpractice case

by Patricia Manson, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
    A hospital and doctor have agreed to pay $11.8 million – one of the highest settlements of its kind – in a lawsuit brought on behalf of a Chicago woman left in a persistent vegetative state following the delivery of her baby.  
    Chief Cook County Circuit Judge Donald P. O’Connell entered an order Tuesday approving the settlement in a suit that claimed Shari McCoy was improperly anesthetized during an elective Caesarean section in May 1991.
    Eunice Myree, McCoy’s mother and guardian of the estates of both McCoy and McCoy’s son, filed suit the following year against St. Joseph Hospital and anesthesiologist Robert Ang.  
    The $11,821,960 settlement is among the highest settlements or verdicts in Illinois in a medical malpractice case involving anesthesia, according to John Kirkton, manager of the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter.
    He said higher amounts include a $23.2 million verdict returned in June 1990 by a Peoria County jury and an $18 million jury verdict returned in April 1991 by a Cook County jury in a case that settled out of court for $10 million.
    In the McCoy case, the settlement includes $1,091,542 for past medical bills, $6,640,198 for future medical bills and $1,650,126 for lost income, according to Myree’s attorney, Terrence K. Hegarty of Hegarty & Hegarty.
    He said Ang is to pay $1 million of the settlement amount, while St. Joseph is to pay $9.8 million in addition to the $1,021,960 it previously paid for McCoy’s medical costs.
    St. Joseph’s attorney, William V. Johnson of Johnson & Bell Ltd., said the hospital did not acknowledge liability by agreeing to the settlement.
    One factor that played a part in the decision to settle was the recent expansion in Illinois of the definition of apparent agency, Johnson said.  The lawsuit contended that Ang was the apparent agent of St. Joseph.
    Attorney Brian C. Fetzer of Johnson & Bell Ltd. also represented the hospital.
    McCoy was a 34-year-old employee of the Cioty of Chicago when she underwent a spinal anesthesia in 1991 during the Caesarian delivery of her son, Jonathan, Hegarty said.
    He said McCoy became unconscious and stopped breathing for several minutes after Ang failed to recognize signs of a “high spinal,” or anesthesia so far up her body that her lungs wer unable to function on their own.
    McCoy was resuscitated, but has remained in a permanent vegetative state, Hegarty said.  He said McCoy’s son, who was not breathing on his own when he was born, suffered no known permanent injuries.
    Ang’s attorney, John N. Seibel of Cassiday, Shade & Gloor, could not be reached for comment by early Tuesday afternoon.