Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Conversion of Medical Malpractice Defendant

Mary McNair had knee replacement surgery at Rush University Medical Center. The surgery did not go as expected and left her with permanent injuries. On April 8, 2014, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Rush University Medical Center alleging medical negligence related to the anesthesia and post-anesthesia care. She sought discovery from one of the named respondents in discovery pursuant to the Illinois statute. The respondent in discovery was Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran. The trial judge entered an order requiring written discovery to be answered by July 17, 2014. Dr. Buvanendran filed responses to all of the interrogatories by the date set by the court. Dr. Buvanendran also responded to requests for additional production of documents by the deadline of Aug. 4, 2014.

The trial judge ordered a deposition of Dr. Buvanendran to take place on Sept. 8, 2014. Dr. Buvanendran sat for that deposition as was required.

Two weeks later, McNair filed an emergency motion for “an extension of time to convert respondents in discovery to defendants,” alleging that she needed additional time to complete discovery from other respondents in discovery. Her motion claimed that she needed discovery from these other respondents in order to decide whether she would make Dr. Buvanendran a party defendant.

The trial judge granted the motion over Dr. Buvanendran’s objections. McNair then asked for an additional extension to Nov. 7. 2014 and the trial judge again, over Dr. Buvanendran’s objection, granted the motion, setting a final deadline of April 30, 2015 for McNair to file her motion to convert respondents in discovery to defendants.

She filed another and last motion to convert Dr. Buvanendran to defendant on that date (April 30, 2015). Dr. Buvanendran objected, and the trial judge sustained his objection. McNair appealed that decision.

On appeal, Dr. Buvanendran cited the statute authorizing plaintiffs to convert respondents into defendants. The statute provides a 6-month period “after being named a respondent” for a plaintiff to convert a respondent into a defendant, meaning that in this case, this period or deadline would have expired on Oct. 8, 2014.

The statute permits the court to grant a single extension of up to 90 days for good cause and ”additional reasonable extensions from this 6-month period for a failure or refusal on the part of the respondent to comply with timely filed discovery.”

Dr. Buvanendran complied with discovery, however, the April 30, 2015 date was more than 90 days after the Oct. 8 expiration date.

McNair argued that other respondents needed to comply as well before she could evaluate whether Dr. Buvanendran could be converted to a party defendant and that the failure of these other respondents in discovery to comply justified the additional time extension.

The Illinois Appellate Court disagreed, finding that an extension on the provided period to convert a specific respondent into a defendant could not be provided based on the failure of other respondents to comply with discovery. The appellate court therefore affirmed the trial judge’s order dismissing the motion to change Dr. Buvanendran from being a respondent to being a defendant.

Mary McNair v. Asokumar Buvanendran, M.D. and Rush University Medical Center, et al., 2016 IL App (1st) 151860-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, birth trauma injury cases, birth injury cases, brain injury cases, wrongful death cases and hospital negligence case for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Alsip, Merrionette Park, Blue Island, Chicago Heights, Harvey, Country Club Hills, Countryside, Western Springs, Palos Hills, Cicero, Joliet, Waukegan, Bensenville, Chicago (Logan Square, Garfield Ridge, Stockyards, Washington Park, Hyde Park, South Shore, East Side, Burnside, Chatham, Pullman, Lake Calumet, Washington Heights, Roscoe Village, Beverly), Summit and LaGrange, Ill.

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

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