Peoria-based OSF St. Francis Healthcare Systems has agreed to a $5 million settlement deal with the estate of Richard J. Berry of Streator, Ill., in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from his death in 2009. The settlement was approved by circuit Judge Joseph Hettel earlier this week, with Hettel dismissing the remaining case once both parties agreed to the settlement.
Berry was involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer driven by the hospital on December 16, 2009. Berry was driving northbound on state highway 23 near the Route 17 intersection. The driver of the tractor-trailer, David deFrance of Canton, Ill., was traveling eastbound on 17. DeFrance failed to stop at an intersection and struck Berry’s car at full speed. Berry was killed immediately in the impact. It isn’t clear exactly when the suit was filed, but the litigation appears to have taken less time than some notable wrongful death cases.
According to the Chicago firm representing Berry, this settlement marks a historic note in the LaSalle district. It is the largest single wrongful death settlement for the area in anyone’s memory.
Berry’s surviving family includes his wife, Rebecca Berry, and his three adult children, John Berry, Martha Berry King and Robert Berry. He was a partner at the law firm Myers, Berry, O’Conor & Kuzma. His family remembers him as a devoted husband and loving father, while his colleagues speak of an advocate fiercely dedicated to his clients’ rights and cases.
The hospital is operated by the Order of Saint Francis, a religious charitable institution. It is the fourth-largest hospital in the state of Illinois, employing more than 800 physicians and serving more than 600 patient beds. The hospital boasts that it is the only level 1 trauma center for the state. In a time of fiscal belt-tightening, it seems regrettable that such an obviously worthy institution can lose so much based on one driver’s negligence, but it must be remembered that the Berry family lost far more.