Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Appellate court to hear arguments in plaintiff's appeal of Cantrell trial

By Steve Gonzalez | Mar 28, 2008


A panel of three appellate judges will hear arguments at 10 a.m. on March 31, in a Madison County medical malpractice trial in which a Troy family doctor was cleared of negligence.

Represented by Rocco Marrese, the estate of William Hoppe II filed an appeal with the Fifth District Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon in September 2007, arguing Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's order denying them a new trial was in error.

Hoppe's estate had filed suit against Dolores Cantrell, M.D. on Feb. 27, 2004, claiming Cantrell misdiagnosed Hoppe's unstable angina on July 18, 2003, which caused his death the next day.

Hoppe's estate claimed that Cantrell failed to adequately and promptly treat the angina and failed to send him to a cardiologist for immediate help.

After a nine-day trial, a Madison County jury delivered a defense verdict on May 11, 2006, ruling that Cantrell met the standard of care in treating Hoppe. The jury deliberated for nearly four hours.

In August 2006, Marrese asked Stack for a new trial arguing his clients were deprived of a fair trial.

Marrese argued the attorneys for Cantrell violated Supreme Court Rule 213 regarding written interrogatories.

He also argued Stack "erroneously overruled" plaintiffs' questions and then allowed defense counsel to use the questions to elicit testimony on direct from his expert witnesses.

At trial, Cantrell was represented by Richard Hunsaker and Mary Jo Guinn of Heyl Royster of Edwardsville.

On Jan. 2, 2007, Stack said even though he feels "great sympathy" for the family and has known some of the members for many years nothing that happened during the trial reached a level that would give the estate a "second bite of the apple."

In his appeal, Marrese contends that the question before Stack and the jury regarded which group of health care providers apply specific standards of care.

Marrese claims American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2002 guidelines outline the standard of care for the treatment of acute coronary syndrome.

He argued that Cantrell did not have an opinion at the time of her interrogatories about the 2002 ACC guidelines, but at trial she had an opinion.

Marrese claims that during redirect of Cantrell, Hunsaker elicited a new opinion that the American College of Cardiology article or the ACC guidelines had not been adopted by the American Academy of Family Practitioners.

He said he objected to the question because it lacked foundation and was also a Rule 213 violation because Cantrell never disclosed her opinion.

Marrese argues that he never asked her or opened the door to which organizations adopted the guidelines and that Cantrell could not know which rules were adopted because she wasn't an officer of that organization.

He also claims Cantrell's testimony was not a permissible elaboration or logical extension of any previously disclosed opinion and instead constituted an improper, undisclosed opinion.

Marrese claims that Cantrell's opinion rested at the heart of his case and that no other defense expert could state affirmatively, as Cantrell did, an opinion that the ACC guidelines had not been adopted by the Academy.

In his response to Marrese's appellate brief, Hunsaker contends that Stack's ruling in favor of Cantrell on the Rule 213 issue was "sound" and also argues that there is no basis for finding that Stack abused his discretion in ruling for Cantrell.

Hunsaker also argues that the statement by Cantrell was a fact, not an opinion, and also that the plaintiff opened the door for the statement because they questioned Cantrell about the guidelines.

"Plaintiffs' attempted sleight-of-hand regarding what Dr. Cantrell was asked and the answer she gave does not transform a fact question into a Rule 213 opinion," Hunsaker wrote in his appellate brief.

Hunsaker also argues that there is no basis to reverse the jury's verdict and that two other witnesses in the case testified that the ACC guidelines did not apply in this case.

"The egregiousness required for a finding of plain error is not even remotely touched upon by the claimed error in the instant case," Hunsaker wrote.

He also argues that Marrese has never argued that the jury's verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

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Heyl Royster