Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Order That Nursing Home Has Same Privilege and Strict Confidentiality That Healthcare Professionals Possess for Internal Quality-Control Evaluations

Meadowbrook Manor Nursing Home invoked the Quality Assurance Act in a case i which Jannie Lindsey, as plenary guardian for 88-year-old Laura Lindsey, alleged that Lindsey was injured by a fall while she was a resident at Meadowbrook’s Naperville Nursing Home.

The Illinois Appellate Court was presented with a case of first impression under the Quality Assurance Act (Long-Term Care Peer Review and Quality Assessment and Assurance Protection Act; 745 ILCS 55/1 et seq.)

In this case, Meadowbrook Manor used a contempt sanction to question the validity of a discovery order that commanded it to handle (1) an internal report it prepared after Lindsey fell and (2) written statements from six witnesses.

Because the Quality Assurance Act “contains language similar to that in a Medical Studies Act and covers a similar subject,” the 2d District concluded “it is appropriate to construe the Quality Assurance Act the same way that our courts have construed the Medical Studies Act.”

In this appellate court case, two cases were viewed as decisive under the Medical Studies Act and thus controlling, which led to affirming the discovery order (although it vacated the contempt ruling).

The gist of the lawsuit was that on April 29, 2012, 88-year-old Laura Lindsey allegedly was injured in a fall while she was in the care of Meadowbrook Manor, a nursing home. On May 9, 2012, employees of Meadowbrook Manor completed a written report regarding her injury. Meadowbrook refused to disclose the May 9, 2012 report, asserting that it was privileged pursuant to the Quality Assurance Act and Medical Studies Act because it was “prepared for the facility’s Quality Assurance Committee.”

On Aug. 25, 2015, the plenary guardian for Lindsey filed a motion to compel Meadowbrook Manor arguing that the May 9, 2012 report was authored neither for the purpose of internal quality control nor by an internal quality control committee.

Meadowbrook Manor opposed the motion but gave the report to the trial court for its in camera review. In support of its objection, Meadowbrook Manor filed an affidavit of its administrator. In that affidavit it was stated that as Meadowbrook’s administrator, she was familiar with Meadowbrook’s quality assurance protocols.  Meadowbrook’s quality assurance process required the completion of the internal quality-assurance-investigation reports relating to incidents or accidents involving resident injuries.  These reports were prepared for the purpose of being considered by Meadowbrook’s Quality Assurance Committee and/or its Fall Committee. The trial court ordered Meadowbrook to turn over the investigation reports. Meadowbrook refused. The trial court held Meadowbrook in contempt. Meadowbrook appealed from that order.

On appeal, Meadowbrook argued that the report and the witness statements made following the incident should be privileged because the report and the statements were eventually reviewed by the Quality Assurance Committee. The appeals panels stated that as Meadowbrook’s argument was clearly without merit under the Medical Studies Act, it was also without merit under the Quality Assurance Act.

Meadowbrook insisted that the report and the statements at issue were created only so that they could be reviewed by its Quality Assurance Committee. Meadowbrook maintained that, if not for the existence of the Quality Assurance Committee, the documents at issue would have never been created. As such, it contended the documents should be privileged. Meadowbrook’s argument was unpersuasive. These documents are the same type of documents that the courts order disclosed in two other cases – Chicago Trust Co. v. Cook County Hospital, 298 Ill.App.3d 396 (1998) and Roach v. Springfield Clinic, 157 Ill. 2d 29 (1993).

According to the opinion, no Illinois Appellate Court has yet interpreted the Quality Assurance Act. Whereas the Quality Assurance Act pertains to Quality Assurance Committees at long-term-care facilities, the Medical Studies Act pertains to Quality Assurance Committees at medical facilities such as hospitals. The court went on to say that this case is controlled by the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Roach and the 1st District’s decision in Chicago Trust.

Finally, the Illinois Appellate Court stated that to adopt Meadowbrook’s argument would circumvent the holdings in Roach and Chicago Trust and allow Meadowbrook to keep everything privileged except a resident’s own medical records. The court stated that it would decline to do that. Accordingly, the trial court correctly overruled Meadowbrook’s objections to producing the disputed report and witness statements.

Lindsey v. Butterfield Healthcare II, 2017 IL App (2d) 160042 (Feb. 9, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has successfully been handling nursing home negligence cases, nursing home abuse cases and medical negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or died as a result of the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Tinley Park, River Grove, Riverdale, Bedford Park, Summit, Schaumburg, Schiller Park, Cicero, Geneva, Lincolnwood, Lisle, Lake Forest, Lockport, Niles, Chicago (Marquette Park, Lawndale, Logan Square, Goose Island, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Roscoe Village, Irving Park, Edgebrook, Norwood Park, Archer Heights, Washington Heights, Beverly), LaGrange Park and Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

Related blog posts:

Illinois Senate Bill 2031 Would Create a Nursing Resident’s Authorized Representative

Nursing Home Contracts Containing Arbitration Clauses Under Attack

Outbreak of Bacteria from Intravenous Syringes Injures 52 Nursing Home Patients