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Sparger v. Yamini

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

October 28, 2019

JEFF SPARGER, as Father and Next Friend of KIERSTEN SPARGER, a Minor, Plaintiff-Appellant,
BAKHTIAR YAMINI, M.D., and THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER, an Illinois Corporation, Defendants-Appellees TIMOTHY I. McARDLE, Contemnor-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 16 L 12475 The Honorable John Ehrlich, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Timothy I. McArdle and Michael S. McArdle, of Nolan Law Group, of Chicago, for appellants.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Mark M. Brennan, Kenneth C. Hoffmann, and Anthony J. Longo, of Brennan Burtker LLC, of Chicago, for appellees.

          JUSTICE WALKER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Pierce and Justice Mikva concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Plaintiff Jeff Sparger, on behalf of his daughter Kiersten Sparger, filed a complaint against defendant physician, alleging the physician's negligence in repairing a spinal fluid leak following Kiersten's spinal cord surgery resulted in Kiersten developing meningitis. A neuropsychologist evaluated Kiersten to determine if the meningitis affected her "cognitive, emotion, and behavioral presentation." The neuropsychologist's report stated that Kiersten presented signs and symptoms consistent with a traumatic brain injury. Specifically, Kiersten exhibited several cognitive impairments and had a change in personality causing her to become emotionally volatile. Defendant requested Kiersten's medical records from two hospitals she visited prior to her surgery. Plaintiff refused to disclose the records, arguing they were privileged pursuant to the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (Mental Health Act) (740 ILCS 110/1 et seq. (West 2018)). Defendants filed a motion to compel, contending that because the report concluded Kiersten's injury affected her emotional presentation, plaintiff placed Kiersten's mental health at issue and therefore needed to disclose Kiersten's mental health records. After an in camera inspection of the records, the trial court granted the motion to compel. Plaintiffs counsel respectfully declined to disclose the records and was held in friendly contempt to facilitate appellate review.

         ¶ 2 We find the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion to compel because plaintiff did not place Kiersten's mental condition at issue by claiming brain damage. The information plaintiff seeks to protect is not relevant or probative and is unduly prejudicial as it does not pertain to Kiersten's conduct and actions at the time of her injuries.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 On December 22, 2016, plaintiff, as father and next friend of Kiersten, a minor, filed a medical negligence complaint against defendants, Bakhtiar Yamini, M.D. (Dr. Yamini), and the University of Chicago Medical Center (U of C Medical Center) (collectively, defendants).

         ¶ 5 In the complaint, plaintiff alleged that on March 30, 2015, Dr. Yamini, an employee of the U of C Medical Center, performed surgery on Kiersten, "including a lumbar laminoplasty for untethering of the spinal cord with microdissection and neuromonitoring." On April 27, 2015, Dr. Yamini again saw Kiersten because Kiersten's surgical wound was leaking spinal fluid. Dr. Yamini confirmed that the wound was leaking and instructed his staff to "overstitch" the wound. Dr. Yamini discussed the need to admit Kiersten but informed Kiersten's parents that due to a nursing strike, Kiersten could not be admitted. For the next several days, a pouch developed at the wound site, Kiersten developed a fever and significant neck pain, and she was eventually taken to the U of C Medical Center on May 13, 2016, where Dr. Yamini surgically repaired the leak. The complaint alleged that Dr. Yamini's 14-day delay in repairing the leak was a significant deviation of the standard of care, defendants were negligent, and as a direct and proximate result, Kiersten "developed infectious meningitis, and the serious sequalae thereof, and suffered injuries of a personal and pecuniary nature, which are permanent and continuing in nature."

         ¶ 6 Defendants denied they were negligent and careless in repairing the wound.

         ¶ 7 During discovery, defendants issued an interrogatory to plaintiff, seeking the names and addresses of all physicians, specialists, therapists, clinics, and similar personnel or facilities who examined or treated Kiersten for her injuries. In response to the interrogatory, plaintiff identified Dr. Kathy Borchardt, a neuropsychologist, as one of the physicians who examined Kiersten. Dr. Borchardt issued a report of Kiersten's evaluation that plaintiff provided to the defendants.

         ¶ 8 The report indicated that Kiersten was referred to Dr. Borchardt for a "neuropsychological evaluation to determine whether Kiersten's recent bout with meningitis has affected her cognitive, emotion, and behavioral presentation." Dr. Borchardt interviewed Kiersten, who stated that since her bout with meningitis, she "becomes more frustrated and angry than she used to" and "has lost friendships because of her moods and outbursts." Kiersten's parents were also interviewed and stated that since the meningitis, "Kiersten's reading comprehension appears compromised, and she has become forgetful ...

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