Plaintiffs’ attorneys in a $4.1 million negligence case can keep most of the additional $1.3 million in legal fees granted by a lower court as “reasonable” reimbursement, an Illinois panel has ruled.

The decision hinged on whether lawyers suing Clare Oaks’ nursing home for negligence and wrongful death on behalf of a former resident’s estate proved their fees were justified.

Under Illinois law, plaintiffs’ attorneys in medical malpractice actions can recover fees equal to one-third of damages awarded to their clients. That one-third amount happened to be the contingency fee set by the attorneys for Susan R. Grauer and Thomas M. Trendel, independent co-executors of the estate of Dolores Trendel.

The executors alleged Dolores Trendel suffered a stroke in 2011, two weeks after she stopped receiving warfarin for her atrial fibrillation. She died on March 15, 2015.

The $4.1 million in damages awarded in the case made it the largest under the state’s Nursing Home Care Act.

Clare Oaks, which operates Assisi Healthcare Center at Clare Oaks, appealed both the verdict and the awarding of attorneys’ fees, as well as about $150,000 in related costs. The community is located in Bartlett, IL, 35 miles west of Chicago.

The Illinois First District Appellate Court recently upheld both rulings in favor of the estate.

Clare Oaks had argued that Trendel’s attorneys documented time spent on the case only afterward and that they should have to prove the amount of time worked through the discovery process. 

Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith disagreed.

“A trial court is permitted to use its own knowledge and experience to assess the time required to complete particular activities involved in a case,” he wrote.

“The trial court can also rely on its own observation of the progression of the case and the work involved.”