A case filed in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois will turn on the question “whether an employer owes any duty to an employee's unborn child in requesting an employee to perform certain manual duties.” Judge Robert Dow overruled a motion to dismiss the case. Chicago trial lawyer Eugene Hollander filed the lawsuit against the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago on behalf of Sindy Mejia, who claims that she was discriminated against by being forced to perform manual labor and that work stress led to the premature birth of her son, who suffers developmental delays. Hollander explains the case in this report.
Even though Ms. Mejia was having health issues prior to her problems at work, Hollander says that there is no problem with the case. Under Illinois law, the plaintiff only has to prove that the hostile work environment was a proximate cause of the premature labor, not that it was the proximate cause. “If the employer’s creation of the hostile work environment was a factor among many which caused the premature delivery, they can be held liable.”
Illinois Rules of Evidence 702-705 relate to the use of expert testimony. Hollander says that Ms. Mejia’s case will certainly involve testimony from her treating physician to support the claim that the hostile work environment was a proximate cause of the premature delivery of her son. Hollander says that no determination has yet been made whether other expert medical witnesses will be used.
In its motion to dismiss, Catholic Charities argued that a case like this was unprecedented under Illinois law. Hollander says that there is Illinois case law allowing a cause of action for an unborn child against someone who has committed a tort. This might arise in a medical malpractice situation or in a case where a doctor was negligent in the care and treatment of a pregnant woman, giving the unborn child a cause of action. But, Hollander says, this might be a case of first impression in Illinois.
Hollander says that he and Ms. Mejia are eager to have the case move forward in the court and reach a verdict or settlement so that she and her son can be justly compensated.
Eugene K. Hollander is a principal in the Law Offices of Eugene K. Hollander, Chicago, Illinois. He has served as a prosecutor with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, where he successfully prosecuted numerous individuals on the trial and appellate levels. Before opening his own office, Mr. Hollander associated himself with several aggressive litigation firms where he represented a Fortune 500 corporation in the defense of its labor claims, and successfully defended a class action contract claim at trial. He was recently selected as an Illinois Super Lawyer based on a statewide survey of practicing attorneys. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.