Post-Trial Motion Necessary To Preserve Appeal Issue In Directed Verdict Case

Karen Gillespie, as administrator of Kenyudra Gillespie’s estate, sued the University of Chicago Hospitals and a number of doctors for medical malpractice. Karen settled with or dismissed all of the defendants except Dr. Glynis Vashi. The case went to trial, and after Karen put in her evidence, the trial court granted a directed verdict for Dr. Vashi.

Karen appealed. She claimed she was deprived of a fair trial because the trial court refused to admit certain evidence, including “an affidavit by Dr. Vashi, the hospital’s rules and regulations, plaintiff’s expert’s testimony that Dr. Vashi was Kenyudra’s ‘attending physician,’ and plaintiff’s expert’s testimony regarding the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals’ rules and regulations.”

Dr. Vashi claimed that Karen waived the argument for appeal because she did not file a post-trial motion contesting the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. Karen argued that she didn’t have to because the case was resolved on Vashi’s motion for a directed verdict, so it never went to a jury.

Generally, in a jury case, a party has to make a post-trial motion to the trial court to preserve an issue for trial. But when the case is tried without a jury, a post-trial motion is not necessary to preserve an issue for appeal.

In this case, the First District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Karen had to make the post-trial motion to properly preserve the evidence disputes for appeal. Here’s what the appellate court said:

Plaintiff [Karen] also argues that because the case ended with a directed verdict rather than a jury verdict, no posttrial motion was necessary to preserve the evidentiary issues for appeal.

Plaintiff neither cites to any case law to support her assertions nor did our research reveal any. We conclude that because plaintiff did not file a posttrial motion, her claims of evidentiary errors are waived on appeal.

The appellate court did not state whether Vashi had authority for her side of the proposition. Nor did the court state why its decision was the better rule. So even though the case never made it to the jury, Karen was held to the waiver rule for a jury case.

Read the whole case, Gillespie v. University of Chicago Hospitals, No. 1-07-1962 (12/31/08), by clicking here.