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McMath v. Katholi

March 23, 2000


Agenda 15-January 2000.

CHIEF JUSTICE HARRISON delivered the opinion of the court:

In February 1994, plaintiff, Carolyn McMath, filed a medical malpractice action against defendant, Dr. Richard E. Katholi, to recover damages for the wrongful death of her husband, Kenneth McMath. After a three-day trial held in December 1997, the circuit court of Sangamon County entered judgment on the jury verdict in favor of Dr. Katholi and plaintiff appealed. A majority of the appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by allowing defendant to testify as an opinion witness because he had not disclosed himself in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 213 (177 Ill. 2d R. 213). 304 Ill. App. 3d 369. We granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315.

Briefly stated, on February 27, 1992, Kenneth McMath (McMath) and his wife drove to defendant's office in Springfield from their home in Lincoln. McMath, who had a history of heart and stomach problems, had been referred to defendant the previous day by his family doctor after complaining of chest discomfort and indigestion. Because McMath did not have an appointment and was not experiencing symptoms at the time of the visit, defendant, who was in the cardiac catheterization lab, told his assistant to set up an appointment for McMath the following day. McMath died in the car on the way home from defendant's office.

Plaintiff's suit alleged that defendant committed malpractice by failing to conduct an examination of McMath or refer him to another, available doctor prior to sending him home and that this omission resulted in McMath's death. In January 1994, plaintiff took defendant's deposition. At the time of the deposition, Supreme Court Rule 220 (134 Ill. 2d R. 220) governed the disclosure of expert witnesses. However, effective January 1, 1996, this court repealed Rule 220 and amended Rule 213 (166 Ill. 2d R. 213, now 177 Ill. 2d R. 213) to include discovery and disclosure of opinion witnesses. Accordingly, in June 1996, the trial court entered a case management order pursuant to amended Rule 218 (166 Ill. 2d R. 218), which noted that defendant had completed his disclosure of all opinion testimony pursuant to Rule 213 and had named Dr. Aldred Heckman, Jr., as his only opinion witness. Defendant never updated this disclosure.

On the last day of trial, plaintiff filed a motion in limine seeking to bar defendant from testifying regarding, inter alia, the cause of McMath's death because defendant had not "been named as an opinion witness in this case." Plaintiff's motion did not cite any rule or case law supporting her request. During the argument on plaintiff's motion, the following colloquy occurred between the trial court, counsel for plaintiff, Mr. Wolter, and counsel for defendant, Mr. Velde:

"COURT: First of all, which statute are we under? ***

MR. WOLTER: We're under the statute -? I can't cite you the number, Judge, where they have to respond to my request for description of their expert witnesses. I want to say 220 but I'm not sure.

COURT: Old 220?

MR. WOLTER: Sure. ***

COURT: All right. Here is the section which applies. *** Under Paragraph 4 of Rule 220(c) the provisions of Paragraph[s] (c) and (d) which pertain to disclosure here of last apply to a party or an employee of a party who will render an opinion within his expertise at the time of trial. However, the provisions of Paragraph[s] (c) and (d) do not apply to parties or employees of entities whose professional acts or omissions are the subject of a litigation. The opinions of these latter persons may be the subject of disclosure by deposition only.

And you're telling me, Mr. Velde, that Paragraphs 2 and 4 opinions regarding the cause of Mr. McMath's death and the possible causes of chest pain on February 27th have been inquired into in the deposition, isn't that correct?

MR. VELDE: *** Your Honor, I think he went into that, you know. ***

MR. WOLTER: Your Honor, I will-I think we'll stipulate he was asked questions about those two issues.

COURT: All right. I will allow the doctor to testify then to those issues. We'll show that the third motion in limine is granted in part as to Paragraphs 1 and 3 which is by ...

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