Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 00 CH 1859 The Honorable Lester D. Foreman, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cohen
Defendants, Dr. Thomas Manos and Dr. Mark Kolozenski, refused to produce patient appointment books and the medical records of two patients named in a subpoena duces tecum issued by plaintiff Department of Professional Regulation (the Department), pursuant to section 60d of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois (20 ILCS 2105/60d (West 1998) (recodified as 20 ILCS 2105/2105-105 (West 2000))). When defendants refused to produce the subpoenaed documents, plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County to enforce the subpoena. Defendants answered the complaint, asserting the physician-patient privilege as an affirmative defense. 735 ILCS 5/8-802 (West 2000). Plaintiff filed a response denying defendants' affirmative defense without explanation. Both the defendants and plaintiff subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment. *fn1 The circuit court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment; however, the order provided that the production of the subpoenaed records would be stayed if defendants filed a notice of appeal. Defendants now appeal to this court to determine whether dentists are within the class of healthcare providers covered by the physician-patient privilege.
We hold that dentistry is a branch of surgery, and because the privilege covers both "physicians" and "surgeons," defendants cannot be compelled to produce their patient files for any reason outside of those stated in section 8-802 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/8-802 (West 2000)). While the defendants' patient files -- irrespective of the patient identifying information being redacted -- are privileged, the appointment books are not privileged and must be produced.
On February 3, 2000, plaintiff filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County to enforce an administrative subpoena duces tecum it had served on defendants. The subpoena ordered defendants to produce the patient records of two patients defendants had treated on Monday, June 23, 1997. The subpoena also sought production of the defendants' patient appointment books, including the names, addresses and phone numbers of all patients treated on any Monday in the months of February, March, April and June of 1997. Defendants waived service, answered the complaint and asserted the physician-patient privilege as an affirmative defense. Both plaintiff and defendants subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment (735 ILCS 5/2-1005 (West 2000)).
On July 31, 2000, the circuit court conducted a hearing on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The circuit court began the hearing by explaining that it had done a lot of research and had "[found] it very hard to come to the conclusion that a dentist should not be entitled to the same protections *** as any other so-called medical professionals." Nevertheless, after both attorneys presented their arguments, the circuit court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and ordered the defendants to produce the records requested in plaintiff's November 2, 1999, subpoena with the patient names and any other identifying information redacted. The court further ordered the production of said records by August 30, 2000, unless defendants filed a notice of appeal. If such a notice was filed, defendants would then not be required to produce the subpoenaed documents unless they were ordered to do so by this court. As its basis for ruling the circuit court stated:
"I have no guidance from any appellate tribunal. There is no case involving a dentist or anyone providing oral care. I think that there is a strong argument in favor of the consideration of the public agency's protection of the public in contradistinction to the individual. I think that the privilege of the individual must be surrendered to the benefit of the public at large. *** It is a perfect case for 160 North LaSalle Street. Let some appellate court tell us in the future exactly what we should do."
In accordance with the circuit court's order, defendants filed a timely notice of appeal on August 23, 2000.
On appeal, defendants contend: (1) summary judgment was improper because issues of material fact exist; (2) dentists are considered "surgeons" under Illinois case law, and therefore they are covered by the physician-patient privilege; and (3) the material requested by the Department to be produced falls under the physician-patient privilege.
Plaintiff responds that: (1) the Department has subpoena power over defendants' patient files as part of an administrative investigation of defendants pursuant to the Illinois Dental Practice Act (Dental Act) (225 ILCS 25/25 (West 2000)) and the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois (Civil Code) (20 ILCS 2105/2105-105 (West 2000)); (2) the circuit court's order was proper because dentists are not specifically covered by the physician-patient privilege; and (3) even if defendants are entitled to assert the physician-patient privilege, the subpoenaed documents do not fall under the privilege.
While we gently respond that perfection is in the eye of the beholder, we do agree with our circuit court colleague that the issue before us is one of first impression in Illinois and note 160 North LaSalle appreciates his concerns.
This case requires us to interpret a statute and determine whether summary judgment was properly granted; therefore, our review is de novo. Rockwood Holding Co. v. Department of Revenue, 312 Ill. App. 3d 1120, 1123 (2000); In re Estate of Hoover, 155 Ill. 2d 402, 411 (1993). "Summary judgment is to be granted only if the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, admissions, and exhibits on file, when reviewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Berlin v. Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, 179 Ill. 2d 1, 7 (1997); 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 2000). "On de novo review of an order granting summary judgment, this court must ascertain whether the trial court properly concluded there were no genuine issues of material fact and if there were none, whether judgment for the movant was correct as a matter of law." Constitutional Casualty Co. v. Soder, 281 Ill. App. 3d 657, 660 (1996). In conducting our review, "we are free to consider any pleadings, depositions, admissions, ...