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Mandziara v. Canulli

September 24, 1998

MARY MANDZIARA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE-CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL D. CANULLI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT-CROSS-APPELLEE, AND NORTHWEST COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson delivered the opinion of the court

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY.

HONORABLE DAVID DONNERSBERGER, JUDGE PRESIDING.

When patients receive treatment from a mental health professional they have a right to expect that in most circumstances their records will be kept in confidence. That is the promise made by the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (the Act)(740 ILCS 110/1 et seq. (West 1994)).

The question in this case is whether Mary Mandziara (Mandziara) has the right to sue a lawyer who obtained and served a subpoena for her records, which were then brought to a courtroom and used by a Judge. We hold that she does. For that reason, we reverse the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Michael Canulli (Canulli), the lawyer. We also affirm the trial court's denial of Canulli's petition for sanctions under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137 (155 Ill. 2d R. 137).

FACTS

Mary Mandziara and her first husband Earl Jursich (Jursich) divorced in 1989. Mandziara received sole custody of their two children.

On November 17, 1992, Jursich, through his attorney Michael Canulli, brought an emergency petition to modify child custody before the trial court. This petition alleged Jursich learned that on November 6, 1992, Mandziara had attempted suicide and was hospitalized at Northwest Community Hospital (the Hospital). The petition asked the court to determine Mandziara's fitness to retain sole custody of the children.

In connection with the petition, Canulli served a subpoena duces tecum on the records custodian at the Hospital. The subpoena requested the records custodian to appear in court to testify about Mandziara's medical records dating from January 1, 1990 to November 17, 1992. Canulli did not obtain a court order to serve the subpoena on the Hospital.

On November 17, Mandziara appeared without a lawyer. Canulli represented Jursich. The Hospital's records custodian, Helen Langer (Langer), appeared in court with the subpoenaed records on Mandziara's hospitalization, but did not give the records to Canulli. Instead, Canulli called Langer as a witness, and Langer gave Mandziara's records directly to the trial court. The court reviewed the records in open court and then questioned Mandziara about her hospitalization and about certain notes in the records. At the close of the hearing, the court awarded temporary custody to Jursich. Eventually, after several months, Mandziara regained sole custody.

On April 19, 1994, Mandziara filed a complaint against the Hospital for releasing her records without a court order, in violation of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act. On October 18, 1994, the trial court granted summary judgment to the Hospital in a final and appealable order. Mandziara appealed.

This court affirmed in a summary order. See Mandziara v. Northwest Community Hospital, No. 1-94-4045 (May 2, 1996) (unpublished under Supreme Court Rule 23). Although this court acknowledged Canulli did not attach a court order to the records subpoena, it held section 10(b) of the Act (see 740 ILCS 110/10(b) (West 1994)) protected the Hospital from liability: "While we do not condone the trial Judge's actions in commenting upon Mandziara's records in open court, this was beyond the control of Northwest Community Hospital or its records custodian. We find [the Hospital] did nothing more than follow section []10(b) of the Act in that it provided the court with Mandziara's medical records pursuant to a request from an interested party for the sole purpose of an in camera inspection to determine their relevance to the child custody issue." Mandziara, 1-94-4045 slip op. at 3.

On October 20, 1994, Mandziara filed an amended complaint against both the Hospital and Canulli. The amended complaint alleged Canulli violated the Act by serving a subpoena on the Hospital without a court order. On March 7, 1997, the trial Judge, not the Judge who conducted the custody hearing, granted summary judgment to Canulli. Canulli filed a petition for sanctions under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137. On October 20, 1997, the court denied Canulli's petition. On November 21, 1997, the court denied his motion to reconsider.

Canulli now appeals the trial court's Rule 137 ruling, and Mandziara cross-appeals the court's ...


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