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Actor Dennis Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, are trying to take their case against Baxter Healthcare Corp. to the highest court in Illinois two years after their infant twins suffered a drug overdose due in part, they argue, to the company’s confusing drug labeling. The Quaids, represented by Chicago attorneys Susan Loggans and William Harte, petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court on Sept. 23 to review their case and potentially overturn an appellate court ruling dismissing their lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. The lower court found that California, where the medical mishap occurred, is a better venue for the litigation. In their appeal to the high court, the Quaids argue that the case against Deerfield, Ill.-based Baxter should be allowed to proceed based on past Illinois legal precedent that favors the plaintiff’s choice of venue. “If a plaintiff doesn’t have the right to go to a defendant’s home state and face what would normally be considered a hostile jury because the plaintiff knows what’s best for its own case, then you’ll be virtually blocking any innocent person from doing what is best for them and allowing the defendant to control where any case is filed,” said Loggans, who handled the trial court case. Harte is the lead appellate attorney. Baxter is represented by Chicago-based Mayer Brown. Partner Sheila Finnegan represented the company at the trial court level, and partner Michele Odorizzi is handling the appellate work. Finnegan declined to comment on the case, referring questions to Baxter. “We believe the case was properly dismissed in Illinois,” because the medication errors didn’t occur in Illinois and the plaintiffs and potential witnesses reside in California, said Baxter spokeswoman Erin Gardiner. Investigations by both the hospital and the California Department of Public Health determined that this was a “preventable error” and that medical staff should be reading drug labels multiple times, Gardiner said. In June, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District affirmed a September 2008 Cook County Circuit Court decision to dismiss the case on the doctrine of forum non conveniens. When the Quaid newborns, Zoe Grace and Thomas Boone, were being treated for infections at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles in November 2007, they were twice given 10,000 unit/ml of the blood thinner Heparin, which is 1,000 times over the recommended dose, instead of the prescribed 10 unit/ml Hep-lock to keep their intravenous lines clear. The Quaids argue in the case that Heparin and Hep-lock, both Baxter drugs, were too similarly labeled and packaged and that prior incidents of confusion should have led the company to make labeling changes or issue a recall. This is not a medical malpractice case and the facts about what happened at the hospital are not in dispute so it’s going to be less important that the plaintiffs have access to the Los Angeles hospital staff for depositions, Loggans said. It’s more important that they have access to Baxter employees and former employees in Illinois who might have worked on the drugs’ labeling and packaging, she said. The Quaids have already settled litigation with the hospital. In addition, said Loggans, the standards for expert testimony in Illinois are different from the ones in California, which may make a difference when it comes to deciding punitive damages. “Everyone thinks these twins are fine because no symptoms have appeared yet, but we’re going to show that there are long-term developmental issues,” said Loggans. “Things may show up when they’re 20 or 30 years old.”

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