Why Bernie Mac's family is suing two years later

One of my goals, in which I have failed miserably, is to not read the comments at the bottom of articles like this one that discusses a lawsuit filed by Bernie Mac’s estate alleging medical malpractice in Chicago led to his death.  I try to ignore comments on newspaper articles because it’s almost always negative and usually from people who would never say such horrible things if people knew who they were.

Like a car accident, I just can’t help but look at these comments and did so with this article too.  One of the comments that caught my eye was from someone who implied that the lawsuit must be frivolous because it was filed almost two years after he died.  Surely if the case was legitimate they would have filed suit right away, right?

I’ve read similar comments on other articles about lawsuits that have been filed.  There are a few good reasons why the commenters are wrong.

First, the time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois is generally two years from the date of a death (one year if it’s against a Government facility).  So while a lawsuit can technically be filed at any time, they had up until two years to do it.  You will find that many cases are filed right before the deadline.

Which leads us to the second reason.  Before filing suit, it is common practice to try and negotiate a settlement.  Why spend all of the money on a lawsuit if you can negotiate out of court.  That saves you a ton of money on expert fees as well as the extensive work it takes to go to trial.  That may or may not have happened here.  I suspect it’s more likely reason number three which is . . .

Putting together a medical malpractice lawsuit takes a ton of time.  On average it takes at least six months to pull a case together.  If the family was grieving and didn’t approach a lawyer for a few months (very typical) then their malpractice attorneys would have even less time to get ready.

In this case, Mac’s family is suing more than 10 doctors.  That implies that there are probably tens of thousands of medical records that needed to be reviewed to determine if there was a case.  To file suit, his attorney would have had to found an independent doctor who would testify in a written affidavit that malpractice occurred.  With so many defendants, it’s possible that more than one doctor was needed to address the various areas of medicine involved.  It also likely took a lot of time to secure so many medical records.

Of course we have no way of knowing if these doctors were negligent in his death.  The bottom line is that you shouldn’t read anything in to the fact that it took so long for a lawsuit to be filed. That’s just the way our fabulous legal system works.  Nothing more, nothing less.


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