Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Order for Defendant to Produce Insurer Information Regarding Hired Controlled Physician Experts

During discovery in a negligence case, State Farm Insurance Co. retained outside counsel to defend Allison Rancour. In this Kane County case, the attorneys named Drs. Benjamin Goldberg and Michael Musacchio as controlled experts. The plaintiff requested a list of the amounts paid to each of the doctors in every case where they were hired by State Farm and the group of State Farm employees that practiced law in Chicago known as Bruce Farrel Dorn & Associates.

The defendant refused to comply and the court sanctioned the defendant and attorneys $25 a day for failing to comply. The attorney for the defendant and State Farm argued that the judge erred in commanding discovery from non-parties that had not been subpoenaed. And because neither the attorneys nor outside counsel hired by State Farm nor its client were employees of State Farm, the law firm claimed they could not be compelled to provide information possessed by State Farm.

The appellate court affirmed the discovery order but reversed the sanction because the outside firm used a “friendly contempt” for immediate review, thus the appellate court explained that there was no need to subpoena State Farm or the Bruce Farrel Dorn & Associates law firm because the discovery order was aimed at Rancour and the outside law firm. The decision of the appellate court was based on Szczeblewski v. Gossett, 342 Ill. App. 3d 344 (2003), and Oelze v. Score Sports Venture, 401 Ill. App. 3d 110 (2010) for the Second District. The court concluded that “the court correctly applied existing case law, which holds that a party has reasonable control over the documents possessed by her insurer.”

The appellate court held that the order compelling discovery was appropriate. The court relied on existing case law, which holds that when a party has reasonable control over the documents possessed by her insurer, they must be produced.

The outside counsel for defendant argued that Szczeblewski did not express an intent to confine its decision to request to admit under Rule 216. Rather, the court based its reasoning on the then-existing interpretation of written interrogatories pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 2013.

“In deciding a party’s duty under Rule 216, we are guided by how Supreme Court Rule 213 has been construed. Rule 213 has been interpreted to require a party to answer fully and in good faith to the extent of his actual knowledge and the information available to him or his attorney.” Szczeblewski, 342 Ill. App. 3d at 349.

The court’s discovery order properly directed defendant to produce information, and she had a good-faith obligation to make a reasonable effort to secure that production. By the defendant attorney’s own admission, neither defendant nor the attorney made any such effort to comply with the order.

Because the discovery order was not, contrary to what defense counsel contended, “null and void,” the defense counsel’s argument that the sanctions order was also null and void necessarily fails. The court entered a proper discovery order and the record is clear that defendant failed to comply.

Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the compelling of the State Farm production request.

Grant v. Rancour, 2020 IL App (2d) 190802 (June 12, 2020).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury lawsuits, truck accident lawsuits, car accident cases and nursing home abuse lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Wheaton, Carol Stream, St. Charles, Calumet City, Orland Park, Aurora, Highland Park, Northbrook, Evanston, Schaumburg, Schiller Park, Elgin, Chicago (West Town, East Garfield Park, Little Italy, Bridgeport, Douglas, Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, Englewood, South Shore, Jackson Park, Rogers Park, Lakeview, Irving Park East, Portage Park, Oriole Park), Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows and Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

Related blog posts:

Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Verdict and Orders New Trial After Defendant’s Expert Witness Was Not Allowed to be Cross-Examined

U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Grant of Summary Judgment in Product Liability Lawsuit Related to Experts and as to Recalled Motorcycle Helmets

Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Jury Verdict Where Expert Testimony Was Based in Part on Barred Evidence