News & Events

October 04, 2022

Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP Obtains Defense Verdict In High-Stakes Medical Malpractice Case

Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP attorneys Kay L. Schichtel and William P. Greubel obtained a defense verdict for Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) following a 10-day jury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois in front of Judge Janet Adams Brosnahan.

This case signifies the culmination of two noteworthy things:

First, the case, Yarbrough v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, was first filed 12 years ago and made its way up to the Illinois Supreme Court on an apparent agency issue. The Supreme Court affirmed the First District's finding in NMH's favor, ruling that NMH could not be held liable under a theory of apparent agency for the conduct of prenatal providers at the unrelated Erie Family Health Center, an FQHC. The plaintiffs were left to focus their alleged birth injury case solely on the conduct of the Northwestern doctor who interpreted a 20-week ultrasound. The plaintiffs asked the jury for $97 million. 

Second, it is the final trial verdict in the 48-year trial career of Ms. Schichtel, who plans to retire in October 2022. Practicing since 1974, she has devoted her practice to the defense of medical negligence claims and has substantial trial experience in other areas, including pharmaceutical and medical device litigation. 

Fellow founding partner Brian W. Bell said, "I can think of no more fitting way to end the last trial of Kay's impressive, 48-year career than with a defense verdict. She has been a trailblazer her whole career, long serving as a mentor to fellow attorneys, especially her female colleagues." 

Ms. Schichtel started as the first female lawyer at Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon in 1974 and then became its first female partner. In 1992, she and eight of her partners founded Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP. She has been a longtime member of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Society of Trial Lawyers, in which she served as the first female president in 2005.

"This victory, one of many, is a testament to what a genuinely gifted trial lawyer Kay has been over her entire career. Kay is THE standard and has been a role model for us all, and we are all proud to have been a part of her incredible journey," current managing partner, A. Jay Koehler said.

Ms. Schichtel has been a leader in and out of the courtroom and will leave behind a distinguished legacy. Below are only a few of her many recognition highlights:

  • Named to the 2023 Best Lawyers in America list
  • Recipient of Top Women Lawyers in Leadership of The Women's Bar Association of Illinois in 2014
  • One of the Top Twenty Defense Lawyers by Chicago Lawyer 
  • Featured in the Chicago Lawyer Magazine in 2020, Q&A Department 
  • Rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell for 25 years
  • Selected for inclusion in Illinois Super Lawyers' Top 50 Women Attorneys in Illinois
  • Selected for inclusion in Leading Lawyers, 2004-present
  • Featured in the Leading Lawyers Business Edition Magazine in 2018, Methodically Educating Juries in Medical Malpractice Defense

"My best advice is—if you find that you are not surrounded by people you love and respect and enjoy at work—it's time to move and find that environment—because that is the secret to a long and fulfilling career." –  Kay L. Schichtel 

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