ALBERT R. DAVIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
KEWANEE HOSPITAL, Defendant-Appellee
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 12-MR-1552. Honorable Bonnie M. Wheaton, Judge, Presiding.
The trial court properly dismissed plaintiff anesthesiologist's action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on defendant hospital's alleged violations of the Medical Studies Act and the Health Care Professional Credentials Data Collection Act, including the disclosure of information obtained during the credentialing process the hospital used in processing its offer of employment to plaintiff before that offer was withdrawn, since neither Act provided plaintiff with a private right of action for an alleged violation of the confidentiality exceptions in the Acts; however, plaintiff had the right to pursue common-law remedies.
Thomas A. Zimmerman, Jr., Adam T. Tamburelli, and Frank J. Stretz, all of Zimmerman Law Offices, P.C., of Chicago, for appellant.
John A. Simon and Arthur M. Scheller III, both of Drinker, Biddle & Reath LLP, of Chicago, for appellee.
JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hudson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Plaintiff, Dr. Albert R. Davis, filed suit against defendant, Kewanee Hospital (the Hospital), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on alleged violations of section 8-2101 of the Code of Civil Procedure, commonly known as the Medical Studies Act (735 ILCS 5/8-2101 (West 2008)), and the Health Care Professional Credentials Data Collection Act (Credentials Act) (410 ILCS 517/15(h) (West 2008)). After the Hospital withdrew its offer of employment to Dr. Davis, Dr. Davis requested from the Hospital information related to its credentialing process. In particular, Dr. Davis sought information obtained by the Hospital during its process of assessing and validating his qualifications. The Hospital refused to provide the information, and Dr. Davis filed his complaint, seeking disclosure of the information. Dr. Davis alleged that exceptions to the confidentiality provisions in the Medical Studies Act and the Credentials Act required the Hospital to disclose the information. The Hospital moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that neither of the confidentiality exceptions applied.
The trial court agreed and granted the Hospital's motion to dismiss. Dr. Davis appeals, and we affirm.
[¶2] I. BACKGROUND
[¶3] Dr. Davis was a licensed physician, surgeon, and anesthesiologist. In August 2008, he pursued a full-time position as an anesthesiologist at the Hospital. The Hospital's chief executive officer (Margaret Gustafson), its chief nursing officer (Jennifer Junis), and its medical staff assistant (Mary Schlindwein) expressed interest in employing Dr. Davis. On November 10, 2008, Gustafson extended to Dr. Davis an offer of employment that was contingent on credentialing by the Hospital.
[¶4] In December 2008, the Hospital initiated its credentialing process and review of Dr. Davis's qualifications. On December 10, 2008, Schlindwein wrote Dr. Davis a letter thanking him for his completed " Request for Application Questionnaire" and enclosing further documents for him to complete. The letter stated that, upon the Hospital's receipt of the completed documents, Dr. Davis's " credentials [would] be reviewed further." On December 16, 2008, Dr. Davis completed the Hospital's " Release of Liability and Practitioner's Statements," which authorized the Hospital to consult with anyone who had been associated with Dr. Davis, so the Hospital could obtain information bearing on his competence and qualifications. On December 18, 2008, the Hospital sent Dr. Davis an employment agreement.
[¶5] Throughout January 2009, Dr. Davis, Gustafson, and Schlindwein engaged in e-mail and telephone conversations relating to his " ongoing credentialing process." The Hospital contacted Dr. Davis's professional references and received information from them. Then, on January 29, 2009, the Hospital withdrew its offer of employment.
[¶6] Nearly three years later, on February 11, 2012, Dr. Davis wrote to the Hospital a letter requesting copies of all data from all sources used by the Hospital in reaching its decision to withdraw its employment offer. On March 16, 2012, the Hospital sent to Dr. Davis a letter advising him that neither the Hospital's " Medical Staff nor its Board of Trustees reached a conclusion" on his application for employment. The letter stated that Dr. Davis's application file had been " closed prior to the commencement of the credentialing review process."
[¶7] Based on the Hospital's refusal to disclose the information, Dr. Davis filed a complaint against the Hospital on October 17, 2012. In his complaint, Dr. Davis alleged that the Hospital's decision to withdraw its employment offer was based on defamatory remarks made by one or more individuals employed by a hospital where Dr. Davis was previously employed. Dr. Davis alleged that the Hospital's refusal to disclose the information violated both the Credentials Act and the Medical Studies Act.
[¶8] Counts I and II of Dr. Davis's complaint were premised on the Credentials Act. Count I sought a declaratory judgment that section 15(h) of the Credentials Act (410 ILCS 517/15(h) (West 2008)) required the Hospital to disclose all information obtained by the Hospital in its process of assessing and validating his qualifications. Dr. Davis alleged that he was prejudiced by the Hospital's refusal to disclose the information, because he believed that one of his prior employers was falsely disparaging him during the credentialing process at hospitals at which he subsequently applied for employment. Count II sought preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring the Hospital to disclose all information obtained during its process of assessing and validating Dr. Davis's qualifications.
Dr. Davis alleged in count II that he lacked any other means to assert his disclosure rights under the Credentials Act.
[¶9] Counts III and IV of Dr. Davis's complaint mirrored the above two counts but were premised on the Medical Studies Act. Count III sought a declaratory judgment that section 8-2101 of the Medical Studies Act (735 ILCS 5/8-2101 (West 2008)) required the Hospital to disclose the information, and count IV sought preliminary and permanent injunctions to that effect. In addition, Dr. Davis alleged that the Hospital had " actually reached a decision regarding" his application for employment.
[¶10] On December 10, 2012, the Hospital moved to dismiss Dr. Davis's complaint under section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 2012)). In its motion to dismiss, the Hospital explained its credentialing process as follows. Schlindwein would gather all of the applying physician's credentialing information and then give the credentialing file to the Hospital's medical executive committee (MEC). The MEC would then review the information and make a recommendation to the Hospital's board of trustees on whether to accept or reject the physician's application. With respect to Dr. Davis, the Hospital had contacted his professional references in order to assess his competence and qualifications for membership on its medical staff. However, the MEC had not met on, reviewed, or considered Dr. Davis's credentialing information before the Hospital withdrew its employment offer.
[¶11] Attached to the Hospital's motion to dismiss was Schlindwein's affidavit, dated December 6, 2012, which stated as follows. Schlindwein's duties included processing physicians' applications for medical staff membership and clinical privileges. Schlindwein was responsible for collecting credentialing information and then turning the credentialing file over to the MEC. On November 10, 2008, the Hospital extended to Dr. Davis an offer of employment that was subject to credentialing by the Hospital. During the process of collecting Dr. Davis's credentialing information, Schlindwein was informed that the Hospital had withdrawn its contingent offer of employment to Dr. Davis. At the time the Hospital withdrew the offer, the MEC had not met on, reviewed, or considered Dr. Davis's credentialing information or his application for employment. Therefore, the MEC had never made a decision regarding his application. In denying Dr. Davis's request for copies of all data used by the Hospital to reach a conclusion on his application, Schlindwein sent a letter advising Dr. Davis that the Hospital had never reached a decision on his application, because his file was closed prior to the commencement of the credentialing review process.
[¶12] In its motion to dismiss the Hospital argued that its " credentialing file" was privileged under both the Medical Studies Act and the Credentials Act. In particular, under section 8-2101 of the Medical Studies Act, all information used by hospital committees " to decide upon a physician's staff privileges" was " strictly confidential." 735 ILCS 5/8-2101 (West 2008). The only exception to the rule of confidentiality, according to the Hospital, was that the " claim of confidentiality shall not be invoked to deny such physician access to or use of data upon which such a decision was based." (Emphasis added.) Id. The Hospital argued that, because the MEC had not met on, reviewed, or considered Dr. Davis's ...