Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, October 19, 2019

SLU opposes motion to remand med mal suit to St. Clair County

Federal Court

By Record News | Sep 20, 2019


EAST ST. LOUIS – St. Louis University counsel Timothy Richards countered lawyer Tom Keefe’s argument for St. Clair County jurisdiction in a medical malpractice suit by declaring, “Both parts of this incredible argument are wrong.” 

He delivered the line at U.S. district court on Sept. 16, in opposing a motion from Keefe client Lisa Vandervelden to remand the proceedings to St. Clair County. 

Vandervelden sued the U.S. in district court in June 2018, and sued the university in St. Clair County circuit court last October. 

Both suits alleged failure to diagnose and treat oral cancer. 

Both suits involved events within a training agreement among Scott Air Force Base, the university, Southern Illinois Health Care, and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. 

The university filed a third party complaint against the U.S. in the St. Clair County suit in June, seeking contribution in the event of a judgment. 

Vandervelden moved to sever the university’s complaint from hers, but the motion didn’t result in a ruling because the U.S. removed the suit to district court. 

There, Vandervelden again moved to sever the university’s complaint from hers. 

Keefe proposed to keep the university’s complaint in district court, by severing it and consolidating it with Vandervelden’s suit against the U.S. 

He wrote that the university’s claims against the U.S. were discrete and separate from the malpractice claim. 

He argued that after severance, Vandervelden’s suit against the university would belong in St. Clair County. 

Richards found those assertions not just wrong but incredible. 

“One could not imagine claims more inextricably intertwined than plaintiff’s suit against St. Louis University and plaintiff’s suit against the USA,” Richards wrote. 

“As set forth in pleadings before this court, plaintiff’s case against St. Louis University and the USA are interlaced factually, given that the providers were literally practicing shoulder to shoulder. 

“Severance would be the antithesis of judicial economy and would actually create prejudice for the USA and St. Louis University, given that both are sued independently for actions of each other’s apparent agents.” 

He wrote that the third party complaint was a prerequisite for exercising rights under the Illinois Contribution Act. 

He wrote that a contribution claim must be filed in the underlying action, and that removal from state court is a proper procedural step in the situation presented here. 

District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel allowed the university to intervene in the suit against the U.S. in July, for the purpose of fling a cross claim. 

Richards wrote then that the university and the U.S. had liability exposure to each other for indemnity and contribution. 

He wrote that one court might hold the U.S. liable for actions of university employees and one might hold the university liable for actions of U.S. employees.

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