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Bass v. Cook County Hospital

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

March 20, 2015

DENISE BASS, Indiv. and as Independent Adm'r of the Estate of Donail Weems, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Cook County Hospital d/b/a Provident Hospital, Defendant, University of Chicago Hospital, Defendant-Appellant

Page 1131

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 08 L 14343. Honorable Moira S. Johnson, Judge, Presiding.

For APPELLANT(S): Mark M. Brennan, Blair R. Kipnis, Anthony J. Longo, Cassiday Schade LLP, Chicago, IL.

For APPELLEE(S): Ryan E. Yagoda, Constance M. Dukes, Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz, Chicago, IL.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hall and Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.


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[¶1] The plaintiff, Denise Bass, Individually and as Independent Administrator of the Estate of Donail Weems, Deceased[1], filed a medical malpractice action against the defendants, Cook County Hospital d/b/a Provident Hospital (Provident) and the University of Chicago Hospital (UCH), alleging that 11-year-old Donail received negligent emergency medical treatment on September 3, 2006. UCH filed a motion for summary judgment, pursuant to section 2-1005 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-1005 (West 2012)), asserting civil immunity from the plaintiff's allegations under section 3.150 of the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act (Act) (210 ILCS 50/3.150. (West 2012)). On July 23, 2014, the circuit court denied UCH's motion, but it certified one question, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010), for our review:

" Whether a defendant hospital is immune from vicarious liability under the Emergency Medical Services Systems Act for the allegedly negligent medical services rendered by its certified flight physician after he arrives at the transferring hospital, assumes care, and transports the patient to another hospital?"

[¶2] UCH timely filed an application for leave to appeal under Rule 308, which we granted on September 24, 2014. For the reasons that follow, we answer the certified question in the affirmative.

[¶3] For purposes of context, we briefly discuss the general provisions of the Act. The Act has been described as a " comprehensive, omnibus source of rules governing the planning, delivery, evaluation, and regulation of emergency medical services." Abruzzo v. City of Park Ridge, 231 Ill.2d 324, 341, 898 N.E.2d 631, 325 Ill.Dec. 584 (2008). The purpose of the Act is to provide " minimum standards for the statewide delivery of" emergency services, recognizing that " diversities exist between different areas of the State, based on geography, location of health care facilities, availability of personnel, and financial resources." 210 ILCS 50/2 (West 2012).

[¶4] In order to fulfill the stated purpose, the Act provides that the Department of Public Health (Department) shall designate Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions (210 ILCS 50/3.15 (West 2012)) and oversee each region's " EMS System" (210 ILCS 50/3.20 (West 2012)). An EMS System is defined as " an organization of hospitals, vehicle service providers and personnel approved by the Department in a specific geographic region." 210 ILCS 50/3.20(a) (West 2012). The entities within

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an EMS System coordinate and provide services pursuant to a plan submitted to and approved by the Department. Id. Each system must have a " resource hospital," and that hospital is required to create its region's EMS System plan, appoint an EMS Medical Director, administer and oversee its plan, and educate the participants regarding plan protocols. 210 ILCS 50/3.35 (West 2012). All other hospitals within the designated region which have " standby, basic or comprehensive level emergency departments" function in their EMS System as either an " Associate Hospital" or " Participating Hospital." 210 ILCS 50/3.20(b) (West 2012). Associate or participating hospitals must " follow all System policies specified in the System Program Plan." Id.

[¶5] The EMS System plan is required to address protocols for patient transports, disaster preparedness plan, and other scenarios that arise during emergencies, such as the handling of " Do Not Resuscitate" instructions. 210 ILCS 50/3.30 (West 2012). The scope of services encompassed by the Act includes advanced, intermediate, and basic life support services, first response services, pre-hospital care, inter-hospital care, and critical care transport. 210 ILCS 50/3.10 (West 2012) (defining each type of service).

[¶6] In this case, UCH served as one of four designated resource hospitals in Chicago, and Provident was a participating hospital within UCH's EMS System plan. UCH's Aeromedical Network (UCAN) participates in the EMS System plan as UCH's medical transport service for pre-hospital and inter-hospital transfers of patients to and between hospitals. See 210 ILCS 50/3.20(b) (West 2012) (stating that all hospitals and vehicle service providers participating in an EMS System must specify their level of participation). Dr. Eric Beck, a UCH physician, served as the EMS Medical Director for this region and was responsible for administering the EMS System plan approved by the Department. As the EMS Medical Director, Dr. Beck was authorized by the Act to designate other physicians to administer the plan in his absence. See 210 ILCS 50/3.35(b) (West 2012). Dr. Ira Blumen, a UCH emergency room physician, was the physician designated by Dr. Beck to administer the plan in his absence on September 3, 2006, the date of Donail's emergency inter-hospital transfer.

[¶7] The undisputed facts establish that Donail began to have breathing difficulties on the evening of September 2, 2006. Pursuant to a previous diagnosis of asthma in 2003, Bass and Donail were instructed to use an Albuterol inhaler and nebulizer to treat Donail's symptoms as needed. On that night, after Donail's Albuterol inhaler and nebulizer treatments failed to help him, Bass called an ambulance. Donail was taken to Provident Hospital, where he was treated in the emergency room by Dr. Linda Lynch and resident physician, Dr. Michael Hohlastos. At approximately 6:45 a.m. on the morning of September 3, 2006, Donail was intubated and connected to a mechanical ventilator, and his physicians determined that he needed to be transferred to the nearest hospital with a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

[¶8] At approximately 7:20 a.m. on that morning, Dr. Hohlastos contacted Provident's resource hospital, UCH, to request an emergency transport for Donail to UCH's PICU. Dr. Norma Lopez-Molina, a UCH PICU physician, received the call from Dr. Hohlastos and contacted UCAN to request the emergency transfer. Dr. Blumen, in his capacity as acting EMS Medical Director, authorized the transfer and directed Dr. Nicholas ...

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