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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Judge substituted after Memorial Hospital moves to quash depositions in wrongful death case

State Court

By Record News | Aug 15, 2019


Keltner

BELLEVILLE – When a dispute broke out in a wrongful death suit against Memorial Hospital, a client of Bruce N. Cook switched judges in a single day. 

As July 30 began, Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf presided over the action. Around noon, on behalf of the estate of Doris Elkins, Cook moved for substitution.    

Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson allowed the motion that afternoon and assigned the action to Circuit Judge Christopher Kolker. 

Any party in an Illinois court may substitute a judge once without cause if the judge has not made a substantial ruling. 

Judges normally sign orders for their own substitutions, and Rudolf himself signed one for the estate two days after Gleeson did it. 

Cook sued Memorial Hospital for estate administrator William Elkins in April, claiming Doris Elkins died due to negligence in its pain clinic. 

Cook didn’t file a certificate from a physician finding merit in the claim, so Memorial Hospital didn’t have to answer the complaint. 

On July 15, Rudolf held a status conference and continued it to Sept. 30. 

On July 22, Cook filed a certificate of merit. And on that date he notified the hospital that he would depose Jeanne Smith and Jennifer Masala at his office on Aug. 14. 

When a lawyer for the hospital responded that he couldn’t make that date, Cook set the depositions on Aug. 13. 

On July 30, hospital counsel Blair Keltner moved to quash the depositions. 

Keltner wrote that unrelenting insistence on Aug. 13 or 14 was an unreasonable attempt to inconvenience, oppress, and harass counsel and his client. 

“No prior attempt to coordinate schedules of defense counsel or these witnesses had been made,” Keltner wrote. 

He wrote that neither Smith nor Masala was available on Aug. 13 or 14, and that he offered to present them for depositions in the week of Sept. 9. 

He also wrote that the hospital hadn’t filed a responsive pleading, which is due Aug. 21. 

A clerk filed Keltner’s motion and Cook’s substitution motion 17 minutes apart. 

On Aug. 1, Cook moved to compel the depositions. 

He wrote that Doris Elkins, age 83, suffered from congestive heart failure. 

According to the filing, the pain clinic admitted her on March 21, 2017, for a procedure known as a vertebral augmentation. It employed conscious sedation with Fentanyl and Versed, a technique that is sometimes referred to as twilight. In minutes after conclusion of the procedure, a code was called that Smith and Marsala participated in. 

Elkins was then transferred to the emergency room in a physical and verbal unresponsive condition. 

Cook wrote that a physician told Elkins’ sons she was over medicated. She died on May 1, 2017. 

Cook notified the hospital that he would bring the motion to a hearing in Kolker’s court on Aug. 8. 

Also on Aug. 1, Keltner notified the estate that he would bring his motion to a hearing on Aug. 8. 

As of Aug. 12, the docket showed no entry for Aug. 8.

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