Nursing home lawsuits going to mediation

Steve Horrell

Those who file a malpractice lawsuit against a nursing home – and the defendants named in those suits – will now be forced to submit the case to a mediator before it moves on to trial. The mandate is part of an amendment to a new medical malpractice rule that was approved this week by the Illinois Supreme Court.

“Not all claims get resolved, but it’s been favorably received by my clients,” Gregory said. “It gives them an opportunity to tell their side of the story to a trained mediator. That’s a positive thing.”

Gregory predicts that mediation will reduce expenses and “accelerate the timetable for getting the issue resolved.”

He has used private mediators – including retired Chief Judge P.J. O’Neil – for some of his nursing home cases. Plaintiffs and defendants feel free to argue their case openly to a mediator because that information is confidential and can not be used as evidence against them if the case goes to trial.

“It creates a vehicle for trying to resolve claims, hopefully for both parties,” Gregory said. “It’s a compromise, as most things in life are.”

Because hiring expert witnesses is so costly, both plaintiffs and defendants have an incentive to settle as soon as possible, he said.

The Medical Malpractice Mediation Program was first suggested in the spring of 2007 by the Medical-Legal Committee, now headed by Hylla. It calls for Hylla and Circuit Judges Barb Crowder and John Knight to review malpractice cases to determine which would benefit from mediation.

Crowder and Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn are certified to mediate cases. Associate Judges Steve Stobbs, Ellar Duff, Keith Jensen and Hylla, a circuit judge, will take their certification tests this spring.

Members of the committee include Callis, Circuit Judges Charles Romani, Dan Stack, Hylla and Crowder, as well as Stobbs and fellow Associate Judge Tom Chapman.

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