Appeal from the Circuit Court the 14th Judicial Circuit, of Rock Island County, Illinois Honorable Ronald C. Taber Judge, Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Breslin
Does the Physicians Lien Act (Act) (770 ILCS 80/0.01 et seq. (West 1996) require that a physician be able to demonstrate a causal connection between an underlying event and the services he rendered before his lien can attach to funds related to a patient's tort action? We hold that it does. Therefore, we vacate and remand.
Plaintiff Kimberly Dollieslager was first treated by defendant, Michael Hurst, a chiropractor, in November 1989 for headaches, cervical pain, pain between her shoulders, stiffness of the neck, and numbness in her arms. These symptoms arose sometime in September 1989 and were diagnosed as being non-traumatic. In December of that year, after 14 appointments, Dollieslager discontinued her treatment with Hurst.
In February 1991, while participating in military operations in Saudi Arabia, Kimberly fell off a truck. The fall resulted in pain throughout her entire body. In November of that year, Kimberly was involved in a serious car accident. Seven months later, in June 1992 she returned to Hurst's office and informed him that she was in pain. At that time, she informed him that she had been in a car accident the previous year and noted that she was injured in the accident and missed several days of work. She complained of cervical pain, pain between the shoulders, lower back pain, pain in the right hip, pain in the right leg and pain in her right knee. These complaints were very similar to those made in 1989.
After treating Dollieslager, Hurst served a lien upon all the necessary parties pursuant to the Act for services provided between June and August 1992. The lien was in the amount of $2,720 and was to attach to Dollieslager's cause of action or settlement stemming from the car accident. Dollieslager's action relating to the accident was subsequently settled for $6,500.
Dollieslager moved for a declaratory Judgement requesting that the court declare the lien null and void on the basis that Hurst was unable to demonstrate that the treatment he provided in 1992 was causally related to the car accident. Without a causal relation, she contended that the lien could not attach and was therefore void.
A bench trial followed wherein Hurst was asked whether, with a reasonable degree of chiropractic certainty, he was able to state if there was a causal connection between Dollieslager's complaints in 1992 and the car accident in 1991. Because of the prior complaints in 1989 and the incident in Saudi Arabia, Hurst admitted that it was impossible to determine exactly what injuries were caused by the accident. He assumed that matters not previously addressed during her prior treatment were caused by the accident. Furthermore, he stated that he had to rely on Dollieslager's statement to him that she was seeking treatment for pain following her accident. At the end of Hurst's testimony, the court denied the motion for declaratory judgment. It concluded that Dollieslager had the burden of proving that there was no causal relationship between the accident and the medical treatment and that she failed to carry her burden. This appeal followed.
In light of the fact that this case centers around the interpretation of the Act as a whole, we will begin by setting out its relevant parts.
"§ 1. Every licensed physician practicing in this State who renders services by way of treatment to injured persons, except services rendered under the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act or the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act, shall have a lien upon all claims and causes of action for the amount of his reasonable charges up to the date of payment of such damages.
Provided, however, that the total amount of all liens hereunder shall not exceed 1/3 of the sum paid or due to the injured person on the claim or right of action, and provided further, that the lien shall in addition include a notice in writing containing the name and address of the injured person, the date of the injury, the name and address of the licensed physician practicing in this State, and the name of the party alleged to be liable to make compensation to such injured person for the injuries received, which notice shall be served on both the injured person and the party against whom such claim of right of action exists.
§ 2. The lien of any such licensed physician practicing in this State shall, from and after the time of service of the aforesaid notice, attach to any verdict, Judgement or order secured in any suit or action by the injured party based on the negligent or wrongful act, and to any money or property which may be recovered by compromise settlement, or in ...