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Reda v. Advocate Health Care

February 22, 2002

EMILIO REDA ET AL. (SUSAN CAPRA, CONTEMNOR-APPELLANT),
v.
ADVOCATE HEALTH CARE ET AL., APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

Released for publication March 29, 2002.

EMILIO REDA ET AL. (SUSAN CAPRA, CONTEMNOR-APPELLANT),
v.
ADVOCATE HEALTH CARE ET AL., APPELLEES.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

PUBLISHED

Docket No. 90487-Agenda 21-September 2001.

 During discovery in a medical malpractice action, the circuit court of Cook County twice ordered plaintiffs, Emilio and Mary Reda, to disclose Emilio's psychiatric records to defendants, Advocate Health Care, formerly doing business as Lutheran General Hospital, Inc. (hospital); Dr. Theresa Cappello; and Dr. Melvin Katz. Plaintiffs' attorney, Susan Capra, refused, invoking the mental health therapist-patient privilege under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (Act) (740 ILCS 110/1 et seq. (West 2000)). The court held Capra in civil contempt for refusing to comply with its discovery orders.

The appellate court, inter alia, upheld the disclosure of Emilio's psychiatric records. 316 Ill. App. 3d 1115. We allowed Capra's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). We now reverse the appellate and circuit courts, and remand the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' first amended complaint alleged as follows. On June 6, 1994, Emilio was admitted to the hospital, coming under its care and the care of Drs. Cappello and Katz, for the treatment of arthritis in his right knee. That day, Dr. Katz performed a total right knee arthroplasty, i.e., knee replacement. As a result of the surgery, Emilio developed an acute thrombosis of the popliteal artery in his right leg. Defendants failed in several respects to timely diagnose and treat this worsening condition. As a proximate result of defendants' negligence, Emilio "sustained injuries of a personal and pecuniary nature." Emilio sought recovery for these injuries (count I), and as a result of Emilio's injuries, Mary sought recovery for the loss of Emilio's society, companionship, and affection (count II). In their answers, defendants denied that plaintiffs were injured as alleged.

In subsequent interrogatories, Dr. Katz and the hospital each asked Emilio to specify his claimed injuries. Emilio answered each interrogatory as follows:

"I am not a medical doctor. Thus, I can only state what I believe my problems are in laymen's terms. As a result of the occurrence, I suffered severe injuries to my leg (toes amputated and calf muscle removed) which have resulted in disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering. I also suffered a stroke, heart problems and kidney problems. I would refer you to the Lutheran General Hospital records for details; Investigation continues."

We note that Emilio's hospital records were not included in the record on appeal.

Plaintiffs filed their current complaint on December 17, 1996. During pretrial discovery, defendants requested from Dr. Samuel DeLisi Emilio's treatment records. Dr. DeLisi refused, explaining that Emilio had not authorized their release. Plaintiffs objected to defendants' discovery request, invoking the mental-health therapist-patient privilege. On November 14, 1997, defendants Cappello and the hospital moved to compel Emilio to authorize the release of his psychiatric records from Dr. DeLisi.

On January 19, 1998, Emilio and Mary each testified at a discovery deposition. During Emilio's deposition, attorneys from both sides agreed that questions regarding Dr. DeLisi's psychiatric treatment of Emilio would be deferred pending resolution of the motion to compel. The record contains the following pertinent excerpts from Emilio's deposition:

"Q: [Defense counsel] All right. My question related to whether any doctor told you that you had sustained any type of stroke. *** Did someone tell you that or use those terms?

A: I don't know about if I sustained stroke damage, but he said I had brain-he determined I had brain damage. He gave me a puzzle to work out, 17 pieces. I couldn't put the puzzle together. Then, he did a couple other tests.

And in more polite terms, he classified me one step above an idiot.

Q: Okay. At Lutheran General Hospital, did any physician or doctor tell you that you had a stroke, of any type?

A: Not that I remember.

Q: And then, you've told us a little bit about your headaches. I want to ask you just a few more questions about that.

How frequently do you have headaches, nowadays, in general? Is it like every day, ...


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