Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 96 L 6417 Honorable David R. Donnersberger, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hall
Susan Capra appeals from a circuit court order holding her in civil contempt for refusing to comply with prior orders of the court directing her to produce psychological and psychiatric documents subpoenaed in a medical malpractice suit. On appeal, Capra contends that the circuit court erred in holding her in civil contempt for refusing to produce the psychiatric records of her client, Emilio Reda, because such records are provided privileged protection under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (740 ILCS 110/1 et seq. (West 1998)). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
This case arises out of a medical malpractice action brought by Emilio and Mary Reda (plaintiffs), against Advocate Health Care, f/k/a Lutheran General Health System, d/b/a Lutheran General Hospital, Inc., et al. (defendants). Plaintiffs' December 17, 1996 complaint alleged that, in June 1994, defendants were negligent in tendering postoperative care to Emilio following a knee surgery. The complaint further alleged that, as a result of defendants' malpractice, Emilio suffered injuries including amputation of the right foot, renal failure, and a stroke. Emilio sought recovery for the injuries he sustained. Mary, Emilio's spouse, sought recovery for loss of society, companionship and affection.
Defendants made a discovery request for production of Emilio's medical records, including those records of Dr. Samuel DeLisi. On or about November 7, 1997, Capra made an objection to the discovery request for records from DeLisi. Capra noted that DeLisi was a psychiatrist and, thus, those medical records were protected by privilege. On August 20, 1998, defendants filed a motion to compel Emilio's medical records from DeLisi.
On November 5, 1998, following an in camera inspection of Emilio's medical records, the circuit court entered an order stating:
"Plaintiffs are to produce complete records of Dr. DeLisi and V.A. Hospital to defense counsel within 14 days (on or before November 19, 1998)."
On November 19, 1998, plaintiffs filed an emergency motion to vacate the November 5, 1998 order compelling plaintiffs to produce certain medical records.
On March 17, 1999, the circuit court entered an order stating:
"Plaintiffs' [e]mergency [m]otions are denied; [p]laintiffs are given until March 22, 1999, to produce the psychological/psychiatric records of Emilio Reda to defense counsel ***"
On April 6, 1999, the circuit court held Capra in civil contempt for refusing to comply with the discovery orders regarding disclosure of Emilio's mental health information. The circuit court assessed Capra a fine in the amount of $100 with an additional penalty of $10 per day until such time that the discovery orders were complied with. This appeal followed.
A contempt proceeding is an appropriate method for testing the correctness of a discovery order. Lewis v. Family Planning Management, Inc., 306 Ill. App. 3d 918, 715 N.E.2d 743 (1999). Where an individual appeals a contempt judgment imposed for violating a discovery order, that discovery order is subject to review. Almgren v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center, 162 Ill. 2d 205, 216, 642 N.E.2d 1264 (1994). Therefore, this court must review the propriety of the November 5, 1998, and March 17, 1999, discovery orders requiring disclosure of Emilio's mental health information. Whether an individual has introduced his mental health as an element of his cause of action constitutes ...