Appellate court upholds defense verdict in Madison County med-mal trial

By Ann Knef | Jan 7, 2009



The Fifth District Appellate Court has affirmed a judge's decision not to grant a new trial to a family that lost a medical malpractice trial two years ago in Madison County.

In an order handed down Dec. 31, a panel of judges denied the estate of William Hoppe II a new trial against Troy family physician Dolores Cantrell.

A 2004 suit against Cantrell alleged she misdiagnosed Hoppe's unstable angina at an office appointment, which led to his death the following day.

After a nine-day trial in May 2006, the jury ruled that Cantrell met the standard of care in treating Hoppe.

Cantrell was represented by Richard Hunsaker and Karen Kendall of Heyl Royster in Edwardsville.

Plaintiff's attorney Rocco Marrese asked Madison County Circuit Judge Dan Stack for a new trial, claiming his clients were deprived a fair trial.

Stack said that even though he felt "great sympathy" for the family, and had known some of its 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 the appeal, Marrese raised the same issues he raised with Stack when asking for a new trial.

Marrese alleged that attorneys for Cantrell violated Supreme Court Rule 213 regarding written interrogatories.

He argued that Cantrell did not have an opinion at the time of her pre-trial interrogatories about American College of Cardiology standard of care guidelines for treatment of acute coronary syndrome, but at trial she had an opinion.

He also claimed Cantrell's testimony constituted an improper undisclosed opinion.

Hunsaker argued that Stack's ruling in favor of Cantrell on the Rule 213 issue was "sound."

He also argued that a statement made by Cantrell was a fact, not an opinion, and that it was the plaintiff who "opened the door" with questions to Cantrell on 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 a Rule 23 order, appellate court Justices Richard Goldenhersh, James Wexstten and Stephen Spomer affirmed Stack in a concise written order disposed of without opinion.

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