Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rosenstengel consolidates three medical malpractice lawsuits over same injury

Federal Court

By The Madison County Record | Oct 21, 2019

Rosenstengelcropped
Rosenstengel

EAST ST. LOUIS – Chief U. S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel ruled that Lisa Vandervelden, a client of Tom Keefe who alleges medical malpractice in three suits over one injury, must assert her claims in a single suit. 

Rosenstengel consolidated the suits on Oct. 18, finding they involved common questions of law and fact. 

“Here, all three cases stem from Vandervelden’s allegation that defendants were negligent in failing to timely diagnose and properly treat her oral cancer between January 2017 and August 2017,” Rosenstengel wrote. 

Keefe filed the first suit in June 2018, at district court, claiming the U.S. committed malpractice through Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation. 

Vandervelden demanded $25 million plus costs. 

Last October, she sued St. Louis University in St. Clair County circuit court under Illinois malpractice law. 

This January, Chief Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson assigned the suit to Rudolf. 

Keefe’s firm contributed $13,000 to Rudolf’s judicial campaign last year. 

In April, Keefe added St. Elizabeth’s Hospital as defendant. 

The federal case made no progress for months, because the U.S. successfully challenged a physician’s certificate finding merit in Vandervelden’s claim. 

In Rudolf’s court, in June, St. Louis University filed a third party complaint seeking contribution from the U.S. in the event of a judgment. 

Keefe filed Vandervelden’s third suit at district court on July 10, alleging negligence at Scott Air Force Base. 

On July 15, in Rudolf’s court, Keefe moved to dismiss the university’s complaint against the U.S. or sever it from Vandervelden’s suit. 

On July 16, the U.S. removed the suit to district court. 

On July 23, in the original suit at district court, university counsel Timothy Richards filed a cross claim against the U.S. 

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

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

On Aug. 15, in the suit the U.S. removed, Keefe moved to remand the state law claims to Rudolf.

He proposed to consolidate the university’s complaint against the U.S. with the suit he filed against the U.S. on July 10. 

Richards opposed the proposal on Sept. 16, writing that one couldn’t imagine claims more inextricably intertwined. 

He wrote that providers literally practiced shoulder to shoulder. 

Rosenstengel agreed, signing separate orders consolidating the suits and rejecting remand to St. Clair County. 

She wrote that a district court may sever claims and create separate proceedings if the claims are distinct and separate. 

“In other words, one claim must be capable of resolution despite the outcome of the other claims,” she wrote. 

She wrote that Vandervelden alleged that university employees deviated from the standard of care while U.S. employees supervised them. 

“Thus, SLU’s third party action for indemnity and contribution shares a common question of law or fact with Vandervelden’s malpractice claims against SLU and the United States, making severance improper,” she wrote. 

Magistrate Judge Gilbert Sison, responsible for discovery, has set a scheduling conference Nov. 7.

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