Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Rosenstengel will allow U.S. to depose med mal plaintiff represented by Keefe

Federal Court

By The Madison County Record | Mar 2, 2020


EAST ST. LOUIS – Chief U. S. District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel rejected Tom Keefe’s argument that his client need not answer questions she answered in a parallel case with different defendants. 

On Feb. 21, Rosenstengel granted assistant U.S. attorney Suzanne Garrison authority to depose Lisa Vandervelden on any relevant matter. 

Keefe stopped a deposition in January, and in the process referred to Garrison as “honey” and the chief judge as “Nancy.” 

Rosenstengel found it would be generous to call his conversation unprofessional. 

She noted that he submitted an apology, but didn’t respond to it except to back away from the heat. 

The case “will continue to present significant pretrial conflicts that cannot be effectively and timely addressed by the undersigned,” Rosenstengel wrote. 

She gave Keefe and Garrison 14 days to advise her on their views about appointing a special master.  

She wrote that a special master would be present for the rescheduled deposition and would handle any objections that arise. 

She wrote that Vandervelden’s speech disability presented logistical issues that a special master could resolve. 

She suggested former district judge Patrick Murphy of Marion. 

Vandervelden alleges that failures of the U.S. and St. Louis University to diagnose cancer ultimately led to removal of her tongue. 

She separately seeks damages from the university and other defendants in St. Clair County circuit court. 

When those defendants deposed Vandervelden, her daughter acted as interpreter. 

Vandervelden brought her daughter to Keefe’s office for a deposition on Jan. 24. 

Garrison asked the daughter to leave, as she was a fact witness. 

Keefe allowed no questions that Vandervelden previously answered, and the deposition quickly ended. 

Garrison moved to compel answers, and attached a transcript of the deposition. 

Keefe apologized and stuck to his argument, to no avail. 

“The United States is not a party to the state case and did not participate in the state deposition, nor was it invited to do so,” Rosenstengel wrote. 

She ordered Keefe to reimburse the U.S. for a $366 transcript of Vandervelden’s previous deposition. 

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois