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11/29/89 Linnea Pritchard Et Al., v. Swedish American Hospital

November 29, 1989

LINNEA PRITCHARD ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES

v.

SWEDISH AMERICAN HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT (RICHARD RUNSTROM ET AL., DEFENDANTS; JEFFRY S. SPEARS, CONTEMNOR-APPELLANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

547 N.E.2d 1279, 191 Ill. App. 3d 388, 138 Ill. Dec. 658 1989.IL.1838

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. David F. Smith, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE UNVERZAGT delivered the opinion of the court. DUNN and McLAREN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE UNVERZAGT

Plaintiffs, Linnea Pritchard and Edward Pritchard, brought an action for medical malpractice in the circuit court of Winnebago County against defendants, SwedishAmerican Hospital (the hospital), Dr. Richard Runstrom, Dr. W. Donald Jones, Dr. Novella A. Schafer, and Dr. Adrienne Butler. During discovery, the hospital objected to certain interrogatories submitted to it by plaintiffs. The hospital maintained the interrogatories sought information protected from disclosure by one or more of the following statutes: the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 8-2101 et seq.) (Medical Studies Act), the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 91 1/2, par. 801 et seq.), and the physician-patient privilege (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 8-802). Following a hearing on plaintiffs' motion to compel answers to the interrogatories in question, the trial court entered a written order on June 30, 1988, compelling the hospital to answer. Jeffry Spears, counsel for the hospital, refused to answer the interrogatories. On July 7, 1988, the court held him in contempt and fined him $25. This appeal ensued.

On appeal, contemnor Jeffry Spears and defendant SwedishAmerican Hospital set forth four contentions of error: (1) that the trial court erred in ordering the hospital to disclose information that was privileged and confidential under the Medical Studies Act; (2) that the trial court erred in ordering the hospital to disclose any mental evaluations of defendant Dr. Runstrom, as such information was privileged under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act; (3) that the trial court erred in ordering the hospital to disclose information concerning the medical treatment of Dr. Runstrom, as the physician-patient privilege prohibited the discovery of that information; and (4) that the trial court erred in ordering the hospital to answer the interrogatories in question, as they were overly broad and sought information irrelevant to the issues in the instant case.

In their medical malpractice complaint, plaintiffs made numerous allegations of negligence against the physician defendants regarding the care rendered during Linnea Pritchard's June 17 to June 30, 1984, confinement as a patient in SwedishAmerican Hospital, including failure to order proper tests and treatment, failure to obtain proper consultations with specialists, inadequate monitoring of her condition, allowing her to develop hyponatremia and central pontine myelinolysis, and negligent administration of hypertonic saline solutions instead of normal saline to correct her hyponatremia. Plaintiffs made many of the same allegations against the hospital, under a respondeat superior theory, and further alleged that the hospital negligently rendered hospital services, failed to intervene in Linnea Pritchard's care, and allowed Dr. Richard Runstrom to maintain hospital privileges.

Plaintiffs engaged in substantial written and deposition discovery directed to their various theories against the defendants, including the hospital. Thus far, plaintiffs have discovered, among other things: the hospital's bylaws; the bylaws, rules and regulations of the hospital's medical staff; information concerning the hospital's licensure and accreditation; and the forms used in the reappointment of physicians to the hospital's staff. Plaintiffs have deposed or noticed the depositions of each defendant physician; the hospital's president; various members of the hospital's executive committee and credentials committee; all 17 nurses who were involved in Linnea Pritchard's care; and Dr. Kenneth Skaar, who plaintiffs advised the circuit court is Dr. Runstrom's brother-in-law and a fellow member of the hospital medical staff and who "has extensive information as to the physical and mental condition of Dr. Runstrom and other facts which might have a bearing upon Dr. Runstrom's competency to practice medicine."

Part of the deposition discovery focused on the general procedures and criteria established by the hospital in granting and reviewing a physician's privileges. Plaintiffs disclosed to defendants that one of their expert witnesses, Dr. John Porterfield, would testify that the hospital deviated from the standard of care in the manner in which it reviewed and renewed Dr. Runstrom's privileges.

Plaintiffs' second set of interrogatories to the hospital is the subject of this appeal. These interrogatories, which were answered in part, sought information concerning: (1) the hospital's suspension or restriction of Dr. Runstrom's privileges; (2) the information relied upon and the investigations undertaken by the hospital's peer review committee in reviewing Dr. Runstrom's staff privileges and clinical competency; and (3) the medical care, including mental health care, that Dr. Runstrom received as a patient at the hospital.

The hospital answered in full interrogatory Nos. 1 and 2, which asked the effective dates of any suspension or restriction of Dr. Runstrom's medical staff privileges, the nature of the restrictions, the conditions imposed upon the privileges by the restrictions, and the dates upon which any suspension or restriction ended. Specifically, the hospital disclosed that Dr. Runstrom's staff privileges had been suspended on October 6, 1975, and reinstated on February 3, 1976. These privileges had been suspended a second time on October 25, 1984, and had not been reinstated.

Interrogatory No. 3 requested:

"If the answer to Interrogatory No. 1, above, is in the affirmative, please state what steps the defendant hospital took to supervise Dr. Runstrom when he was admitting patients and/or treating patients at the defendant hospital, following the termination or Conclusion of each such period of suspension or restriction of his privileges as a member of the medical staff of defendant hospital."

The hospital objected to interrogatory No. 3 on the ground that what the interrogatory actually sought was not the discoverable results of the internal review of Dr. Runstrom's privileges and clinical competency, but the nature and content of the hospital's peer review process itself. The hospital maintained that the information sought was privileged and confidential under the Medical Studies Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 8-2101 et seq.).

Interrogatory No. 4 requested the hospital to state:

"(a) whether the defendant hospital . . . [after any suspension] required Dr. Runstrom to submit any evidence of his mental, emotional or physical condition other than and in addition to, the uniform application for reappointment to the medical-dental staff, and if so,

(1) the dates upon which the defendant hospital required Dr. Runstrom to do so;

(2) the nature of the evidence of his mental, emotional or physical condition which the defendant hospital required Dr. Runstrom to submit in each instance.

(b) whether the defendant hospital . . . [after any suspension] required Dr. Runstrom to submit to any medical, or psychiatric examinations, tests or treatments, and if so,

(1) the dates upon which the defendant hospital required Dr. Runstrom to do so;

(2) the person or persons to whom Dr. Runstrom was required to submit himself for examinations, tests or treatments in each such instance;

(3) whether the defendant hospital required written reports to be made of the results of each such examination, test or treatment; and

(4) who chose the person or persons to whom Dr. Runstrom was required to submit himself for examinations, tests or treatment in each such instance."

The hospital objected to this interrogatory on the ground that it requested information privileged and confidential, not only under the Medical Studies Act, but also under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 91 1/2, par. 801 et seq.) and the physician-patient privilege (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 8-802). The interrogatory was also objected to as overly broad and seeking irrelevant information.

The hospital raised the same objections to interrogatory No. 6, which requested it to state the following:

"(a) on how many occasions Richard Runstrom was a patient at SwedishAmerican Hospital;

(b) on what specific dates was Richard Runstrom a patient at SwedishAmerican Hospital;

(c) on each such occasion, was Richard Runstrom admitted as an in-patient, or treated ...


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