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Date: 05-19-1999

Case Style: Danielson v. Cacciatori & Cor Mariae Center (OSF Health System)

Case Number: 98l165

Judge: Pirrello

Court: Circuit Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit - Winnebago County

Plaintiff's Attorney: Mark Rouleau, Rockford, Illinois

Defendant's Attorney: Doug Pommatto of Heyl, Royster, Voelkler & Allen, Chicago, Illinois

Description: Nursing Home Negligence - This case involved an attack upon the plaintiff by another resident. The other resident struck the plaintiff around the head and shoulders with a plastic broom handle causing the plaintiff to suffer two black eyes and bruising at her shoulder. Other than fear regarding the incident the plaintiff did not suffer any permanent injuries. The defendant resident was sued for battery and plead diminished mental capacity as defense to the punitive damages claim thus placing her mental health records at issue. Prior to suit the administrator(Cheryl Stout) of the defendant nursing home (Provena Cor Mariae Center)told the police in the criminal battery investigation that they had no reason to believe that the attacker (Cacciatore) posed a danger to any other persons. The administrator further informed investigating officers that Cacciatore had never become aggressive with anyone at the institution prior to the incident. These statements proved to be costly. This same statement was repeated to the family of the victim as well as to her attorneys. In the course of discovery it was learned that the defendant attacker was diagnosed as suffering paranoid hallucinations & delusion disorder with psychotic features. There were numerous references through tout the entire chart to support those findings. The defendant resident was on psychotropic drugs to combat her agitation. The medical chart demonstrated that prior to the attack there were numerous entries documenting "inappropriate behavior," "episodes of yelling" and "screaming." They documented her fears that she would be killed and that someone was trying to poison her. The notes indicated that she was "easily angered." That at times she became "very upset with the staff." She received medications for "agitation." The records further demonstrated that she "has had several loud outbursts when upset with roommate." Several months prior to the attack the chart showed that "the angry outbursts are almost daily towards staff." Most significantly was the entry in the chart six months prior to the attack stating: "Nursing spoke with SSD about [resident], striking out at another Res [resident]. Spoke this date to [resident] and explained that she couldn't hit & hurt another resident. * * * Will monitor further." The plaintiff claimed false statements to the investigating police and family of the victim would be admissible in evidence to show a conscious knowledge of guilt on the part of the defendant nursing home. The nursing home contended that because these statements came after the events in question they were irrelevant. A direct action was never initiated by the plaintiff against the third party defendant as the case settled for the aggregate sum of $32,500.00. The plaintiff suffered two black eyes and a bruised shoulder. Her total medical bills were $6,700 only $500 of which was for treatment the remaining portion was for diagnostics. An important lesson from this case is in the use of parties to develop the discovery necessary to prove the liability of the true culprit. Likewise the gratuitous statements to the police attempting to fabricate and falsify a defense to liability can be costly.

Outcome: Settled for $32,750.00.

Plaintiff's Experts: none

Defendant's Experts: Unknown

Comments: None

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