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05/06/88 Sherman Hospital, v. Jerome G. Wingren Et Al.

May 6, 1988




Before addressing the merits of defendants' appellate contentions, we briefly note that their statement of facts contains both argument and comment in violation of Supreme Court Rule 341(e)(6) (107 Ill. 2d R. 341(e)(6)). Although appellate courts have been reluctant to impose sanctions for this type of violation, sanctions may become necessary to enforce respect for the rule. (Midland Hotel Corp. v. Reuben H. Donnelly Corp. (1986), 149 Ill. App. 3d 53, 58, 501 N.E.2d 1280.) We will consider this warning to be sufficient sanction in this case and address the merits of the appeal.


523 N.E.2d 220, 169 Ill. App. 3d 161, 119 Ill. Dec. 752 1988.IL.699

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. Thomas E. Hogan, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE REINHARD delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and UNVERZAGT, J., concur.


Plaintiff, Sherman Hospital, filed suit in the circuit court of Kane County seeking an amount allegedly due and owing from defendants, Jerome and Marguerite Wingren, for hospital services plus prejudgment interest pursuant to section 2 of "An Act in relation to the rate of interest and other charges in connection with sales on credit and the lending of money" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 17, par. 6402). Plaintiff also sought, in a separate post-trial motion, sanctions pursuant to section 2-611 of the Civil Practice Law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-611). Following a bench trial, the trial court found for plaintiff and ordered defendants to pay $2,737.93 plus costs. After a post-trial hearing, the trial court ordered Gordon & Gordon, Ltd., defendants' attorneys, to pay to plaintiff $911.73 for plaintiff's attorney fees plus $90 in costs, as a sanction under section 2-611. Defendants appeal both the order assessing damages and costs against them as well as the sanction against their attorneys. On appeal, defendants contend that the trial court erred in awarding plaintiff the full amount sought in its complaint because plaintiff failed to establish that its bill was both reasonable and necessary. Defendants also contend that the trial court erred in invoking sanctions against their attorneys.

Defendant, Jerome Wingren, was hospitalized in Sherman Hospital for four days to undergo knee surgery. The bill for Wingren's hospital stay was $2,737.93. Wingren also filed a worker's compensation claim based on a work-related injury to his knee. On July 10, 1986, the claim was settled for an amount in excess of $35,000. As part of the settlement, Jerome Wingren agreed to pay the hospital bill. Additionally, his attorneys retained $4,000 of the settlement amount for the purpose of paying his medical expenses. No part of the hospital bill has ever been paid.

On November 17, 1986, the hospital filed suit against defendants, who never filed an answer or a motion to dismiss. Following plaintiff's pretrial motion for discovery-related sanctions, the matter came to trial on August 26, 1987.

Plaintiff offered the testimony of Ms. Barbara Tindall, an assistant patient accounts manager. Ms. Tindall testified that her department keeps records for hospital bills for all patients and collects the patient accounts. She stated that Jerome Wingren's hospital bill reflected all of the charges and services rendered to him. She further testified that the prices listed on the bill were reasonable prices in the community in which the hospital is located for the services rendered.

Tindall also testified that the computer equipment used to generate the bill in question was standard computer equipment and that the entries on the bill were made in the regular course of business at or near the time of the event recorded. She stated that each day an error report is submitted to the hospital's data control clerk and then resubmitted to each department in order to ensure that billing errors will be corrected. On cross-examination, Tindall stated that she was not a physician but had a better idea than a physician would concerning the reasonableness of the charges in question. She admitted that she had not reviewed all of Jerome Wingren's medical records but stated that, based upon the services provided, the charges were reasonable. On redirect examination, Tindall testified that she was familiar with charges for similar services at other hospitals in the community and that the amounts charged here were reasonable for similar services in the community.

The trial court found for plaintiff and awarded it $2,737.93, the full amount of Wingren's bill. Additionally, following the trial court's finding, defendants moved for leave to file an answer and also to allow Jerome Wingren to verify defendants' answers to interrogatories and request to admit. Both motions were denied.

On September 9, 1987, a post-trial hearing was held at which arguments were heard on defendants' motion for a new trial and to vacate the August 26, 1987, order, and plaintiff's motion for section 2 -- 611 sanctions. We need not relate the grounds alleged in the motion for sanctions in view of our Disposition of this issue on a procedural basis rather than on the merits. The trial court denied defendants' motion and ordered defendants' attorney to pay plaintiff, as sanctions, $911.73 for its attorney fees plus $90 in costs and prejudgment interest.

Defendants initially contend that plaintiff failed to prove at trial that its charges were reasonable and that the medical services provided were necessary. No issue is raised that the services were not performed. Although defendants maintain that plaintiff must prove, as part of its prima facie case, that the bills were both reasonable and necessary, there are no Illinois cases that have required a hospital to prove as part of its case the necessity of its services. Defendants did not raise the necessity of the services as a defense as they did not file an answer, nor did they present any evidence on this contention during trial. Defendants' reliance on Donk Brothers Coal & Coke Co. v. Thil (1907), 228 Ill. 233, 81 N.E. 857, is misplaced. In Donk Brothers, the supreme court addressed the requirement that a jury, in a personal injury lawsuit, consider evidence of money necessarily expended by a ...

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