Illinois Appellate Court Rules That Amended Complaint in Medical Malpractice Case Was Not Timed-Barred

The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that Judith Simpkins’s amended complaint against St. Elizabeth’s Hospital was not timed-barred. The Illinois Appellate Court denounced discovery that includes the series of “routine practices” including boilerplate objections and “dump truck disclosures” as amounting to a “misuse of the discovery process” that “should not be accepted by our trial courts.”

A dissent was filed by Justice Richard P. Goldenhersh who said that the majority’s directions “invade the discretionary province of the trial court in determining discovery disputes. The circuit court on remand is perfectly capable of resolving these and similar discovery disputes without appellate mandate predetermining the exercise of their discretion.”

The appeals panel majority stated that discovery is not a tactical game, but rather a procedural tool for ascertainment of truth for purposes of promoting either a fair trial or a fair settlement. Ostendorf v. International Harvester, 89 Ill.2d 273 (1982). The Illinois Supreme Court rules regarding discovery represent our Supreme Court’s best efforts to manage the complex and important process of discovery. Sullivan v. Edward Hospital, 209 Ill.2d 100 (2004).

The appellate court was concerned about what may have been noted to be “routine practices” in some of the state’s counties. The first is found in the hospital’s responses to plaintiff’s pattern medical negligence interrogatories and request for production. The appeals panel noted that the hospital’s responses simply were referred to because they are part of the record.

In this case, the hospital’s responses to the plaintiff’s discovery requests contained a prefatory section entitled “General Objections.” The point was made that the defendant hospital made plainly inappropriate objections — apparently a pattern for some defendants in some medical malpractice lawsuits. Some of the objections included “objects to plaintiff’s interrogatories and said the interrogatories are unduly burdensome and overly broad” and “certain of plaintiff’s interrogatories seek information which is neither relevant nor material of the present cause of action, not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Also in the general objections was reference to the attorney work-product doctrine and/or subject to the Illinois Medical Studies Act or privileged information. The court was struck that there is nothing in the Illinois Supreme Court rules or the Code of Civil Procedure that allows for this type of prefatory objection. The use of “general objections” lacks utility and preserves nothing for review because the objections are not directed toward any specific question or request for production.

The disclaimer is misplaced, as litigants and their attorneys have an obligation to provide full and complete answers to each of the interrogatories and requests for production as posed. Ill.S.Ct.R. 201(b)(1); R. 213(c), (d); R. 214(c).

In summary, “general objections,” boilerplate objections and fractional or dump truck disclosures, constitute misuse of the discovery process. Such tactics delay the search for truth, impede settlement discussions, waste judicial resources and should not be accepted by our trial courts. The background in this case was whether the plaintiff could file an amended complaint. That issue was clouded by the defendants’ abusive discovery tactics. However, the amended complaint was allowed to be filed and considered.

Simpkins v. HSHS Medical Group, 2017 IL App (5th) 160478 (December 8, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling personal injury litigation, Cook County jury trials, medical malpractice lawsuits, nursing home abuse cases and birth trauma injury cases for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including River Forest, Park Forest, Forest Park, Antioch, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Countryside, Chicago (Wicker Park, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Rogers Park, Englewood), Bensenville, Bolingbrook, Waukegan and Joliet, Ill.

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