Rush University Medical Center Settles $30 Million Medical Malpractice Law Suit – Fourth Largest in Illinois History

Earlier this year, Rush University Medical Center (Rush) settled a medical malpractice suit for $30 million. The pediatric surgeon, Dr. Mark Holterman, allegedly performed over twenty experimental surgeries on a 6-year-old boy, which left the young patient with an irreversible brain injury and cerebral palsy. This is the fourth largest medical malpractice settlement for a minor in the state of Illinois.

The patient-plaintiff was born on November 5, 2009, with esophageal atresia, a non-life threatening condition where the esophagus does not properly develop prior to birth. Surgery to repair this defect is performed soon after a child is born and generally has a high success rate. Dr. Holterman performed the first of twenty-five surgeries the day after the child was born. The suit alleged that Dr. Holterman deviated from the standard of care when he performed the second operation less than a month after the first surgery. Over the next seventeen months, Dr. Holterman operated on the child’s esophagus using unorthodox methods that were not authorized by the hospital and were not typical of clinical trial protocols. The twenty-fifth, and final, surgery involved Dr. Holterman’s inappropriate off-label use of a suturing device to repair the child’s esophagus, which resulted in Dr. Holterman puncturing the child’s pulmonary artery causing catastrophic brain injury. 

Rush decided to settle the malpractice case because it was “in the best interest of this child and the family.” Furthermore, Rush stated that it takes “pride in providing exceptional care” and is “deeply saddened . . . [by the results of] one of the treatment procedures [that] did not go as hoped,” which will require lifelong care for the child. Rush also said that Dr. Holterman “is a highly skilled physician who left our hospital to pursue other professional opportunities in December 2011.” Dr. Holterman is currently on the faculty of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.    

Dr. Holterman was a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) when he cared for the child at Rush. However, the child’s mother only brought suit against Rush and Dr. Holterman. Although UIC was not added as a defendant in the amended complaint, it plans to pay $10 million of the $30 million settlement due to Dr. Holterman’s status as a faculty member at the time some of the earlier surgeries were performed. Dr. Holterman is covered under UIC’s self-insurance program for medical malpractice because he is a university employee. Rush will pay the remaining $20 million of the settlement.  

Stephan Blandin, attorney for the plaintiff and his family, stated, “[t]he fact that Dr. Holterman continually deviated from the standard of care and repeatedly exposed this young boy to the hazards of surgery and risky, novel operations was not only medically careless and personally irresponsible, but it also demonstrated a dramatic lack of oversight from the hospital.”

The large settlement amount resulted from the severity of the child’s injuries allegedly caused by Dr. Holterman’s negligence, for which the child will require lifelong, around-the-clock care. Furthermore, Rush agreed to larger monetary settlement because the child is so young and his birth defect was not considered life threatening prior to the twenty-five surgeries performed by Dr. Holterman.   


Cristina Mares is pursuing her law degree at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. Cristina completed her undergraduate degree at the University of San Diego in Communication Studies and Spanish. She is an active member of the Health Law Institute, and recently accepted an executive board position with the DePaul Journal of Health Care Law. She would like to focus on the regulatory and compliance side of healthcare law after graduating in May of 2017.