312-578-9501 | www.shannonlawgroup.com MAY 2019
Most of you know that my dad is living in his 98th year. In 1920, the life expectancy tables provided for a 54-year lifespan for my dad. By my math, Dad has outlived his life expectancy by 44 years and counting. I fully expect him to crack the century mark on November 15, 2021. My mom passed away 15 years ago at the age of 74. In 1930, the life expectancy tables provided for a 64-year life span for my mom. She suffered from chronic illnesses her entire life but beat the tables by 10 years. Last month, I traveled to St. Louis to take the deposition of an “expert witness” designated by the defendants in a sensitive case, which we will bring before a jury later this year. We are fighting to protect the future of a precious 9-year-old girl. We’ll call her Sarah. She lives with her mom and dad and has seven older sisters, and the family dotes on Sarah constantly. She has a lovely smile and an affectionate laugh. Whenever I enter their home, I am struck by how much love Sarah provides to her family and they to her. Sarah is the sun, and they orbit around her, singing to her, reading to her, and pushing her in a swing. Sarah has cerebral palsy. She uses a wheelchair and is fed through a feeding tube. Sarah’s treating doctors have told us she needs 24-hour care for the rest of her life. This 24/7 care requires someone specially trained to administer her food and medication. Her care and treatment will be expensive — very expensive. According to life expectancy tables, Sarah will live to be 83. The defendants in our case don’t like the price tag for Sarah’s future care. That is where the designated “expert witness” comes in. The “expert” has the most extensive testifying list I have ever seen in my 31-year career. They testify to nearly the same thing every time: Kids with cerebral palsy like Sarah don’t have long to live. In our case, he swore under oath that Sarah has a life expectancy of 16 more years. After asking him questions for a few hours, I still can’t understand how he came up with that magic number. His testimony was based more on speculation than on any formula THE ‘EXPERTS’ OF LIFE EXPECTANCY Exposing Junk Testimony
or mathematical basis. For example, this “expert” had previously testified that a child with cerebral palsy, chronic problems involving her heart and lungs, and multiple hospitalizations for respiratory problems — none of which Sarah has — had a life expectancy of 50 more years, which is 34 more years than our client. But the “expert” went further. Remember I told you that Sarah needs 24-hour care? The “expert” testified Sarah only needs 14 hours of care from a certified nursing assistant (CNA) per day. In Illinois, a CNA is not legally qualified to medicate or feed our client. He further testified that Sarah will actually need zero physical therapy because she has “plateaued.” When asked whether physical therapy will give Sarah a fighting chance to increase her quality of life, lessen chronic pain from contractures, and lengthen her life span, he coldly stated that despite what her treating doctors say, the therapy would provide no benefit. The testimony was as cold as an insurance company’s balance sheet. To them, Sarah is a number on an expense report. Our job is to expose the “junk” that the defense is feeding to the court and to the jury. My dad has outlived the charts by over 40 years, and my chronically ill mom outlived her charts by 10 years. In our case, the defendants and their insurance company will use an “expert” to testify that our client will live 58 years less than the charts imply. It is our job to provide Sarah and her family their day in court and to expose this junk testimony, so Sarah receives the care and treatment she deserves for the rest of her life. We stand ready to do just that.
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