Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Honorable Philip L. Bronstein Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn
This matter is before us on a certified question pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308). The certified question is whether a trial court has discretion pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 183 (134 Ill. 2d R. 183) to extend the six-month statutory period set forth in section 2-402 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/ 2-402 (West 1998)) for converting respondents in discovery to defendants. We answer this question in the negative.
This appeal arises from the granting of two motions for extensions of time in a medical malpractice action. On June 15, 1999, Bertha Robinson (plaintiff) filed a complaint alleging the wrongful death of her husband was caused by Advocate Trinity Hospital while her husband was a patient at the hospital. The complaint also named Drs. Claudia Johnson and Gregorio Aglipay as respondents in discovery. Under section 2-402 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a respondent in discovery may be converted to be a defendant at any time within a six-month period from the date the person or entity is named as a respondent in discovery. 735 ILCS 5/2-402 (West 1998). In this case, the time to convert the respondents in discovery to defendants under section 2-402 was to expire on December 15, 2001. On December 11, 2001, plaintiff filed an emergency motion seeking an extension of time until February 25, 2002, to convert the respondents in discovery to defendants. Over the respondents' objections, the motion was granted. On February 13, 2002, plaintiff sought a second extension of time until March 15, 2002, to convert the respondents in discovery to defendants. Over respondents' objections, the second motion was also granted. The defendant-doctors then moved for leave to appeal under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (155 Ill. 2d R. 308).
Over plaintiff's objection, the trial court granted the Rule 308 motion to certify the question for appeal. The question certified reads: "Whether the trial court has discretion pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 183 to extend the six-month statutory period set forth in 735 ILCS 5/2-402 for converting respondents in discovery to defendants." On August 29, 2002, this court granted respondents-in-discovery's application to appeal.
On appeal, Drs. Johnson and Aglipay assert that the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's two motions for extensions of time to convert the respondents in discovery to defendants where the statute has no provision for extensions of time. 735 ILCS 5/2-402 (West 1998). For the following reasons, we answer the trial court's question in the negative and we hold that a trial court may not extend section 2-402's six-month period during which a respondent in discovery may be made a defendant.
The complaint in this case asserts the following pertinent facts. On June 21, 1999, Abe Robinson (Robinson) was admitted to Advocate Trinity Hospital for rectal bleeding. On June 28, 1999, Dr. Aglipay performed anterior colon resection exploratory surgery on Robinson. On June 29, 1999, Dr. Agliplay also performed surgery on Robinson's right knee.
On July 7, 1999, while walking unassisted to the bathroom in the hospital room, Robinson tripped and fell, striking the left side of the back of his head. That same day, a CT scan of his skull revealed an occipitoparietal hematoma of Robinson's brain.
On July 8, 1999, Dr. Johnson discharged Robinson from Advocate Trinity Hospital. On July 15, 1999, Robinson went to Dr. Aglipay for a follow-up visit for his colon resection surgery. Dr. Aglipay prescribed 2.5mg of Coumadin (a blood thinner) to be taken daily. The complaint alleges that Dr. Aglipay did not monitor Robinson's INR level, which is a method to measure the effectiveness of Coumadin. Robinson saw Dr. Aglipay on two other occasions, but his INR level was never checked.
On September 4, 1999, a CT scan revealed an intracranial hemorrhage. On September 19, 1999, another CT scan revealed a new intraparenchymal acute hemorrhage in the right parietal lobe of his brain. Robinson died on September 21, 1999, from the hemorrhage.
On June 15, 2001, Bertha Robinson, as the special administrator of Robinson's estate, filed a wrongful death action against Advocate Trinity Hospital; the same action named Drs. Johnson and Aglipay as respondents in discovery.
On August 23, 2001, Dr. Agliplay produced Robinson's medical records. On October 5, 2001, Dr. Aglipaly answered the plaintiff's written interrogatories.
On October 29, 2001, Dr. Johnson replied to the plaintiff's request for written discovery. On December 7, 2001, plaintiff deposed Dr. Johnson.
On November 30, 2001, Dr. Aglipay received a letter inquiring about his availability for deposition. On December 7, 2001, plaintiff sent a letter to both Drs. Johnson and Aglipay indicating she would present an emergency motion seeking an extension of time to convert respondents in discovery to defendants.
On December 11, 2001, plaintiff presented an emergency motion seeking additional time to convert respondents in discovery to defendants. Plaintiff's stated reason for the extension of time was that Dr. Johnson's deposition had been taken on December 7, 2001, and plaintiff "needed more time to have the transcript written up and reviewed by [plaintiff's] consultant." Plaintiff's motion was granted over respondents' objection. Plaintiff was given until February 25, 2002, to file her motion to convert respondents in discovery to defendants.
During January 2002, Dr. Aglipay's lawyer and plaintiff's counsel had several conversations regarding scheduling Dr. Aglipay's deposition. Plaintiff's counsel informed the court that he did not schedule Dr. Aglipay's deposition during January 2002 because he was busy trying or preparing to try another case. Dr. Aglipay was deposed on February 13, 2002.
On February 21, 2002, plaintiff presented another motion to extend time. Plaintiff stated that Dr. Aglipay had been deposed on February 13, 2002, and plaintiff's counsel "would need time thereafter to have the transcript written up and reviewed by [plaintiff's] consultant." Over the respondents' objections, the trial court granted another extension until March 15, 2002. In granting this second extension of time, the trial court wrote "[n]o further extensions under any circumstances will be considered."
On March 15, 2002, plaintiff filed her motion to convert respondents in discovery and sought leave to file the first amended complaint at law instanter (motion to convert). The motion to ...