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M.A.K. v. Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center

October 11, 2000

M. A. K., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
V.
RUSH-PRESBYTERIAN ST. LUKE'S MEDICAL CENTER, D/B/A RUSH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CENTER DU PAGE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit Will County, Illinois 97--L--311 Honorable Thomas M. Ewert Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Breslin

MODIFIED ON DENIAL OF REHEARING

Plaintiff filed suit against Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center (Rush) and Royal Maccabees Life Insurance Company (Royal Insurance). Plaintiff alleged that Rush breached its physician/patient relationship with him by releasing his medical records, which contained information about his treatment for alcohol abuse, to Royal Insurance. The trial court issued judgment on the pleadings to Rush. We reverse and hold that the phrase "any physician, medical practitioner, hospital, clinic, health care facility or other medical or medically related facility," does not meet the general designation requirement of the Code of Federal Regulations (Federal Regulations)(42 C.F.R. § 1.01 (1993) dealing with the release of alcohol treatment records.

FACTS

Plaintiff applied for a disability insurance policy with Royal Insurance. In conjunction with his application, he executed an authorization for release of his medical records on October 12, 1994. The authorization provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

"I AUTHORIZE any physician, medical practitioner, hospital, clinic, health care facility [or] other medical or medically related facility *** having information available as to diagnosis, treatment and prognosis with respect to any physical or mental condition and/ or treatment of me *** to give to [Royal Insurance] *** any and all such information.

***

I UNDERSTAND THAT my *** medical records may be protected by certain Federal Regulations, especially as they apply to any drug or alcohol abuse data. I understand that I *** may revoke this authorization at any time as it pertains to any such drug or alcohol abuse data by written notification, however, any action taken prior to revocation will not be affected."

Royal Insurance issued a policy to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff was admitted to Rush for alcohol abuse treatment on January 13, 1995. During his treatment Plaintiff contacted his insurance agency, Brennan and Stuart (Brennan), about the possibility of filing a disability claim. Brennan, in turn, contacted Royal Insurance which sent Plaintiff a preliminary report concerning his potential claim. Plaintiff later decided not to file a claim and so notified Royal Insurance. Plaintiff was discharged from Rush approximately 6 weeks after his admission.

In April of 1995, Rush received a copy of Plaintiff's medical records release authorization from Royal Insurance. Rush released the records. Contained in the records released to Royal Insurance was a notation that Plaintiff stated the onset of his alcohol dependence took place eight months prior to his admission. In other words, Plaintiff allegedly admitted to having a problem with alcohol before he applied for the Royal Insurance policy. After reviewing the records, Royal Insurance determined that Plaintiff had misrepresented his condition of health when he applied for the disability policy. Specifically, Plaintiff responded "No" to the following question: "Has any person proposed for coverage ever: sought advice or treatment for or been arrested for or been addicted to the use of alcohol or drugs?". Given the new turn of events, Royal Insurance canceled Plaintiff's policy and refunded his premiums.

Plaintiff filed suit against Rush and Royal Insurance. He claimed that Rush (1) breached its physician/ client relationship with him, (2) invaded his privacy and (3) negligently inflicted emotional distress upon him. Rush did not answer the counts against it, but instead filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, alleging that it released Plaintiff's records pursuant to a valid authorization. As part of his answer to the motion, Plaintiff included the affidavit of his attorney who stated that, during a meeting with the medical director for Rush, Dr. Paul Feldman, Feldman admitted that Plaintiff's records should not have been released to Royal Insurance. The trial court granted Rush's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff later voluntarily dismissed his claims against Royal Insurance, and he now appeals the trial court's issuance of judgment on the pleadings to Rush.

ANALYSIS

According to the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, "[a]ny party may seasonably move for judgment on the pleadings." 735 ILCS 5/2-615(e) (West 1998). When considering such a motion, the court is to discern whether there is any issue of material fact presented by the pleadings, and if not, which party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Daymon v. Hardin County General Hospital, 210 Ill. App. 3d 927, 569 N.E.2d 316 (1991). The only matters to be considered in ruling on the motion are the allegations of the pleadings. In re Marriage of O'Brien, 247 Ill. App. 3d 745, 617 N.E.2d 873 (1993). Copies of written instruments attached to a pleading as an exhibit are considered to be a part of the pleading. 735 ILCS 5/2-606 (West 1998). If the pleadings raise an issue of material fact, evidence must be taken to resolve the issue and judgment may not be entered on the pleadings. In re Estate ...


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