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Palm v. Holocker

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

December 11, 2017

SCARLETT PALM, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RUBEN HOLOCKER, Defendant Karl Bayer, Contemnor-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Marshall County, No. 16-L-5; the Hon. Thomas A. Keith, Judge, presiding.

          Daniel E. Compton and Karl E. Bayer, of Compton Law Group, of Elgin, for appellant.

          Philip M. O'Donnell and Christopher H. Sokn, of Kingery Durree & O'Donnell, Associates, of Peoria, for appellee.

          Panel JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices O'Brien and Wright concurred with the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          SCHMIDT JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Scarlett Palm filed a personal injury lawsuit against Ruben Holocker on June 22, 2016. Contemnor, Karl Bayer, represented Holocker. Contemnor invited civil contempt to challenge the circuit court's discovery order that compelled Holocker to answer written discovery. He argues that Holocker's statutory physician-patient privilege (735 ILCS 5/8-802 (West 2016)) protects his private medical information from discovery unless he affirmatively places his physical or mental health at issue. Palm counters that the physician-patient privilege does not apply in civil cases where the defendant's physical or mental health is relevant to the case; the statute does not require the defendant-patient to affirmatively place his or her health at issue. We agree with contemnor. We reverse the circuit court's discovery order and vacate its contempt order.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Palm's complaint alleged that on October 18, 2014, Holocker struck Palm, a pedestrian, with his vehicle at a crosswalk in Lacon. Palm alleged that Holocker failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to stop at a stop sign, and failed to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian.

         ¶ 4 Holocker's answer admitted that his vehicle struck Palm; however, he denied liability. He filed an affirmative defense, which claimed that Palm improperly crossed the street, failed to keep a proper lookout, and was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when she crossed the street. Holocker further alleged that Palm's negligence rendered her 50% or more at fault for her injuries. Palm denied Holocker's allegations.

         ¶ 5 During initial discovery, Palm sent Holocker the motor vehicle interrogatories provided in the appendix to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213 (eff. Jan. 1, 2007). Interrogatory No. 20 of the Motor Vehicle Interrogatories to Defendants asks:

"20. Do you have any medical and/or physical condition which required a physician's report and/or letter of approval in order to drive? If so, state the nature of the medical and/or physical condition, the physician or other health care professional who issued the letter and/or report, and the names and addresses of any physician or other health care professional who treated you for this condition prior to the occurrence." Ill. S.Ct. R. 213, Appendix.

         ¶ 6 In response, Holocker disclosed that he needed a letter of approval for "diabetic reasons." He also disclosed the physician who writes his letters, Dr. Nau, and admitted the Secretary of State once suspended his license when Dr. Nau "failed to sign [a] medical authorization."

         ¶ 7 Holocker objected to the two ensuing interrogatories. They requested Holocker to:

"21. State the name and address of any physician, ophthalmologist, optician or other health care professional who performed any eye examination of you within the last five ...

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