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Raymond Larson v. Wexford Health Sources

June 25, 2012

RAYMOND LARSON,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., AND MARVIN REED, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT WARDEN AT PONTIAC CORRECTIONAL CENTER,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 10 CH 28764 Honorable Nancy J. Arnold, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Karnezis

JUSTICE KARNEZIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Hall concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Plaintiff Raymond Larson requested copies of his medical records from defendants Wexford Health Resources, Inc. (Wexford), and Marvin Reed (Reed), the assistant warden of Pontiac Correctional Center (Pontiac). Defendants failed to provide the copies within 30 days of his request. Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants seeking copies of his medical records pursuant to section 8-2001 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/8-2001 (West 2010)). After plaintiff filed his complaint but before the court decided his action, Reed's counsel provided plaintiff with the requested copies. The circuit court dismissed plaintiff's action as moot. Plaintiff claimed attorney fees from defendants pursuant to section 8-2001(g) (735 ILCS 5/8-2001(g) (West 2010)). The court denied his claim. On appeal, plaintiff argues the court erred in holding that (1) section 8-2001(g) does not permit an award of attorney fees if the defendant produces a patient's records after suit but before a judicial determination is made on the merits of the complaint; and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity prohibited the court from awarding plaintiff attorney fees against Reed. We affirm.

¶ 2 Background

¶ 3 Plaintiff is a prisoner at Pontiac. Pontiac is operated by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

¶ 4 On May 3, 2010, plaintiff sent an "Authorization for Release of Offender Medical Health Information" to Reed, the assistant warden at Pontiac in charge of providing medical care to the inmates, and to Dr. Steven Taller, the medical director at Pontiac. Dr. Taller was employed by Wexford, a private corporation that had a contract with the State of Illinois to provide health care services to the prisoners at Pontiac.

¶ 5 In the authorization, plaintiff authorized "Pontiac Correctional Center" to release all his medical records dating between June 1, 2007, and April 28, 2010, to his attorney. Neither defendant provided plaintiff's attorney with the requested medical records or requested additional time in which to provide them.

¶ 6 On July 6, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint for injunction against Wexford and Reed, in his official capacity as the assistant warden of Pontiac. Pursuant to section 8-2001 of the Code, he sought to enforce his right to obtain a copy of his medical records maintained by one or both defendants.

¶ 7 Section 8-2001, also known as the "Hospital Records Act," obligates every "health care facility" and "health care practitioner" (collectively health care providers) in Illinois to allow patients to obtain access to and/or copies of their medical records in a timely manner. 735 ILCS 5/8-2001 (West 2010); Ramirez v. Smart Corp., 371 Ill. App. 3d 797, 803 (2007) (discussing 735 ILCS 5/8-2001 (West 1998)). Upon receipt of a written request for access to or copies of medical records made by a patient treated in a health care facility or by a health care practitioner, the health care provider has 30 days to comply with the request. 735 ILCS 5/8-2001(e) (West 2010). A health care provider may request one extension of time but must comply with the request no later than 60 days after receiving the request. 735 ILCS 5/8-2001(e) (West 2010). Section 8-2001(g) of the Act provides that "[f]ailure to comply with the time limit requirement of this Section shall subject the denying party to expenses and reasonable attorney fees incurred in connection with any court ordered enforcement of the provisions of this Section." 735 ILCS 5/8-2001(g) (West 2010).

¶ 8 Plaintiff alleged defendants did not provide his medical records within the 30 days as required by section 8-2001(e), did not request additional time within which to provide the records and, as of the date of the complaint, had not produced the records. He requested that the court order defendants to produce copies of his medical records and award him reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in pursuing the action.

¶ 9 Wexford moved to dismiss the complaint against it. It alleged that, although it did provide health care services to the inmates at Pontiac, it had no proprietary interest in, control over or authorization to copy the medical records of those inmates, including plaintiff's because the Department of Corrections had sole control over the release, copying or dissemination of all inmates' medical records. The court denied the motion.

¶ 10 On January 14, 2011, the assistant Attorney General representing Reed provided plaintiff's attorney with copies of plaintiff's medical records. Reed moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to sections 2-619(a)(1) and (a)(9) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(1), (9) (West 2010)). He argued plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief should be dismissed because, plaintiff having received his medical records, the claim was moot. He argued plaintiff's claim against Reed for attorney fees should be dismissed because it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the fee claim against Reed being actually a claim against the State of Illinois. Wexford, meanwhile, filed its answer to the complaint. It raised as affirmative defenses the fact that the complaint for injunction was now moot and Wexford had no proprietary interest in, control over or authorization to copy the medical records.

ΒΆ 11 On March 4, 2011, the court entered an order finding, with plaintiff's agreement, that the claim for injunctive relief was moot. It denied Reed's motion to dismiss the claim for attorney fees against him. Plaintiff filed a petition requesting $30,525 in fees. Reed moved to reconsider the court's denial of his motion to dismiss the fee claim, raising again the court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction over Reed under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Wexford objected to the fee petition, restating its earlier assertion that ...


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