Daniel J. Pylman
Daniel J. Pylman

The family of a woman who died following an adrenalectomy settled its lawsuit against Cook County for $3 million.

The parties reached an agreement before Circuit Judge Brendan A. O’Brien in July and the settlement was approved in a vote at the Cook County Board of Commissioners’ Sept. 5 meeting.

In November 2015, 74-year-old Jacqueline Brooks went to the county-run Stroger Hospital with complaints of severe abdominal pain.

Hospital staff performed a CT scan, which indicated a mass in one of her adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney and provide hormones to the body.

The radiologist who looked at the scans said an MRI was an appropriate next step, but that test was never done, according to plaintiff’s attorney Daniel J. Pylman of Cirignani Heller & Harman LLP.

Instead, the doctors consulted an endocrine surgeon to determine whether the adrenal gland needed to be removed in case cancer was found.

Based on the size of the mass, the surgeon decided surgery was necessary, Pylman said.

But the size of the mass was misjudged, appearing larger because there was bleeding in the area, Pylman said.

Had an MRI been taken, they would have determined the correct size of the mass and could have proceeded with a more cautious approach, the lawsuit alleged.

During the procedure, the surgeon confused a kidney cyst with the adrenal mass and instead removed the kidney cyst, which was also observable on the CT scan.

The surgeon caused “massive injuries” to Brooks’ renal vein and inferior vena cava. As a result, she lost 80% of her blood supply. 

Brooks died two days later, court records stated.

The defense contended their doctors believed there was a significant risk for cancer and the preoperative work-up was appropriate. They also argued an adrenalectomy is a difficult procedure that is not often done and often comes with complications.

The county was represented by Assistant State’s Attorney William R. Ragen. A spokesperson with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment.

Pylman said he was pleased with the result and was glad to be able to provide answers for the family.

“From the beginning of this case their goal was to get answers as to what happened to their mother and wife,” he said. “Now they have those answers and I think they are just so pleased they finally know what happened.”

The case is Vera Brooks v. County of Cook, et al., 17 L 3834.