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Estate of Belbachir v. County of McHenry

July 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney


I. Introduction

On May 8, 2007, Plaintiff filed the Motion to Compel which is the subject of this order.

The court granted the Motion to Compel in part on May 14, 2007, and invited the parties to brief the remaining issue, concerning whether documents responsive to Plaintiff's Requests to Produce were protected by the Medical Studies Act, 735 ILCS 5/8-2101. Having reviewed the parties' briefs, Defendant's privilege log, and the relevant case law on the subject, the court finds that the Medical Studies Act does not protect the material identified in Defendant's privilege log.

II. Background

According to the Complaint, Hassiba Belbachir was a 27 year Muslim woman of Algerian descent who had been residing in the Chicago area before boarding a plane to London on March 1, 2005. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint at 7. Upon arrival at London's Heathrow Airport, she was taken into custody and detained by British immigration authorities and ultimately placed on a return flight to Chicago one week later. Id. at 7-8. Upon arriving at Chicago O'Hare International Airport on March 8th, Ms. Belbachir was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [herein "ICE"]. Id. at 8. She was then detained overnight at the Stone Park Police Department. Id. While detained in Stone Park, she became tremulous, shaking, restless, anxious, nauseous and began vomiting. Id. She was rushed to a local hospital where she was diagnosed with acute anxiety reaction, acute gastritis, and vomiting. Id.

On March 9th, 2005, Ms. Belbachir was transported to the McHenry County Jail, which had a contract with ICE to hold immigration detainees pending the resolution of their immigration status. Id. Over the course of the next eight days, Ms. Belbachir experienced various physical and mental health emergencies while detained at the McHenry County Jail, including anxiety and panic attacks, depression, difficulty breathing and suicidal ideation. Id. at 9-11. On March 17th, Ms. Belbachir was found dead in her cell with her jail-issued knee socks knotted together around her neck, the victim of an apparent suicide. Id. at 12.

On March 14, 2006, Abdelkadir Rachid Belbachir (Hassiba's cousin and the administrator of her estate) brought this case pursuant to: the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §1983; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12131; § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794; 28 U.S.C. §§1331 & 1343(a); and 28 U.S.C. §1367(a). The complaint also contains various counts rooted in state law, international treaties and conventions.

Centegra Health Systems is one of many named defendants. Pursuant to its contract with the McHenry County Jail, Centegra was the provider of health care services within the jail.

Plaintiff asserts that Centegra "failed and refused to reasonably accommodate Hassiba Belbachir's mental and physical disabilities . . . in violation of Title II of the ADA and/or §504 [of the Rehabilitation Act]." Id. at 18. Plaintiff also asserts Bivens and Monell claims against Centegra, alleging that its "policies, practices, customs and omissions . . . violated Ms. Belbachir's rights to due process under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments." Id. at 25.

III. Privilege Under the Medical Studies Act

Section 8/2101 of the Act provides, in relevant part: All information . . . of a health care practitioner's professional competence, or other data of . . . committees of licensed or accredited hospitals or their medical staffs, including Patient Care Audit Committees, Medical Care Evaluation Committees, Utilization Review Committees, Credential Committees and Executive Committees, or their designees (but not the medical records pertaining to the patient), used in the course of internal quality control or of medical study for the purpose of reducing morbidity or mortality, or for improving patient care or increasing organ and tissue donation, shall be privileged, strictly confidential and shall be used only for medical research, increasing organ and tissue donation, the evaluation and improvement of quality care, or granting, limiting or revoking staff privileges or agreements for services . . . .

735 ILCS 5/8-2101. The Act further provides that:

Such information, records, reports, statements, notes, memoranda, or other data, shall not be admissible as evidence, nor discoverable in any action of any kind in any court or before any tribunal, board, agency or person. The disclosure of any such information or data, whether proper, or improper, shall not waive or have any effect upon its confidentiality, nondiscoverability, or nonadmissibility. 735 ILCS 5/8-2102. The idea that "information . . . or other data of . . . committees of licensed or accredited hospitals or their medical staffs . . . used in the course of internal quality control . . . shall be privileged," must be read in light of the wealth of Illinois case law which narrows the otherwise broad scope of the Act. Id.

The Illinois Supreme Court noted that the legislative debate and case law addressing the Act suggests that a hospital committee "must be involved in the peer-review process before the privilege will attach." Roach v. Springfield Clinic, 157 Ill.2d 29, 40, 191 Ill. Dec. 1, 6, 623 N.E.2d 246, 251 (1993). The Illinois Appellate courts have taken up this suggestion, holding that the Act is limited to protecting "the mechanisms of the peer-review process-- i.e., information initiated, created, prepared or generated by a peer-review committee." Berry v. West Suburban Hospital Medical Center, 338 Ill.App.3d 49, 55, 272 Ill.Dec. 771, 776, 788 N.E.2d 75, 80 (Ill.App.Ct. 2003), citing Chicago Trust Co. v. Cook County Hospital, 298 Ill.App.3d 396, 402, 232 Ill.Dec. 550, 698 N.E.2d 641 (Ill.App.Ct. 1998) (reports prepared shortly after an incident which were used by an oversight committee to review the incident were not privileged where the reports were not requested by- and thus did not belong to- a committee engaged in the peer-review process); Grandi v. Shah, 261 Ill.App.3d 551, 556, 199 Ill.Dec. 98, 633 N.E.2d 894 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994) (even ...

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