APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE KENNETH L. GILLIS, JUDGE PRESIDING.
Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied April 3, 1996.
Presiding Justice Campbell delivered the opinion of the court: Wolfson, J., and Braden, J., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Campbell
PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs, Steve Poulos (Steve), Katherine Poulos (Katherine), and Daniel Poulos (Daniel), by his parents and guardians Steve and Katherine, brought an action in negligence, fraud, conspiracy, and breach of contract against defendants Dr. Lynda Lane, Commonwealth Medical Associates, S.C., (CMA) and Doctors Office Laboratory, Inc., (DOL) seeking damages in connection with Dr. Lane's testimony at a hearing for the adjudication of the wardship of Daniel. On November 5, 1993, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lane and CMA. On appeal, plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lane and CMA on the grounds that Dr. Lane is immune from liability for reporting potential child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). *fn1 For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
The record reveals the following relevant facts. On December 29, 1988, a DCFS social worker informed the plaintiffs that a former foster child had made allegations that when he lived with plaintiffs, Steve sexually abused him. The DCFS social worker advised plaintiffs that they were being investigated and that they must have their own two-year-old child, Daniel, evaluated for evidence of sexual abuse.
That same day, plaintiffs retained attorney Stephen Komie (Komie) to represent them. Katherine informed Komie that DCFS wanted Daniel admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital or La Rabida Hospital to be evaluated for sexual abuse. Katherine further informed Komie that DCFS would not accept an outpatient medical evaluation performed by the plaintiffs' own pediatrician. Komie recommended that plaintiffs take Daniel to Dr. Lane, whom he described as an expert in the field of the sexual abuse of children.
Subsequently, Dr. Lane conducted a physical examination of Daniel, taking cultures from Daniel's rectum, throat and penis. Dr. Lane had the cultures delivered to DOL for evaluation. Dr. Lane then wrote a report of her examination which stated that Daniel was a healthy, normal child who showed no signs of sexual abuse. Plaintiffs paid Dr. Lane $600 for her services, at the rate of $150 per hour.
On December 31, 1988, a DOL employee wrote a report stating that Daniel's throat culture tested positive for gonorrhea. On January 3, 1989, Dr. Lane learned of the laboratory report, telephoned Komie to notify him of the positive test result, and later advised Steve of the test result by telephone. Dr. Lane then wrote a letter to plaintiffs verifying her conversation with Steve, stating her intent to confirm the test result, and requesting that she reculture Daniel, and treat him if the retest was positive. Later that evening, Dr. Lane reported the test result to the DCFS Child Abuse Hotline.
On January 5, 1989, Dr. Lane informed a DCFS investigator that Daniel's throat culture was positive for gonorrhea of the throat. The investigator filed a report with the DCFS, and the DCFS notified the office of the Cook County State's Attorney that Daniel was infected with gonorrhea.
A petition for Adjudication of Daniel's Wardship was subsequently filed in the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The petition alleged that Daniel was sexually abused based on Lane's diagnosis that Daniel was infected with gonorrhea.
On January 18, 1989, a temporary custody hearing commenced before Judge R. Morgan Hamilton to determine whether Daniel should be removed from his parents' custody pending trial on the petition of wardship. Dr. Lane testified pursuant to plaintiffs' subpoena that at the time she examined Daniel, he was two-and-one-half years old. She took a physical and social history and performed three cultures, checking Daniel for various sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Lane followed standard procedures in preserving a specimen for gonorrhea. Dr. Lane then instructed a nurse to take the specimen to DOL, which is located in the building in which she practices.
Dr. Lane testified that she received the test results on January 3, 1989, revealing a positive culture for gonorrhea from Daniel's throat. Dr. Lane called plaintiffs, but failed to reach them. Dr. Lane then called Komie's office and told him the results of the test and asked Komie where and when she could locate the plaintiffs. Komie told Dr. Lane that the plaintiffs would be in his office that day, and that she could talk to them there. That afternoon, Dr. Lane received a telephone call from Steve and she told him the results of the culture.
Dr. Lane testified that it is difficult to find a positive gonorrhea culture, because it has a high false negative rate. She stated that 50-60% of the time she treats a patient for gonorrhea even if the test is negative. Dr. Lane stated that a ...