Injured Nursing Home Resident Refused Information About Another Resident

The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has reversed and remanded a decision by a Cook County circuit court judge in a nursing home case involving discovery and confidentiality.

In 2011, Robert Holman was a resident of a long-term care facility, Renaissance at Midway.  On or about Jan. 22, 2011, Holman was attacked by another resident. He suffered injuries to his left eye, which caused a hyphema, an orbital fracture and a globe rupture.

On Jan. 17, 2013, a lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County by John Stuckey who was the attorney-in-fact for Holman and his sister. The lawsuit named Renaissance but did not name the attacker, who was identified in the lawsuit as “John Doe.”

Prior to the filing of the case, the attorney-in-fact for Holman filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health. The department investigated and found The Renaissance to be in violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. Specifically, the department indicated that John Doe, Holman’s roommate, had been physically aggressive to Renaissance staff and had been described as “severely demented.”

Based on the state’s Department of Health findings, the plaintiff issued discovery requests on Renaissance wanting information about John Doe, including his name, birth date, Social Security, whether a criminal background check had been conducted on Doe and whether there were other incidents of aggression toward other residents or the nursing home’s employees.

The Renaissance refused to turn over this information maintaining that it was not permitted to disclose the information because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Holman moved for an in camera inspection of the records and of Doe’s nursing home chart.

The Cook County Circuit Court judge concluded that most records were protected by HIPAA and the Illinois Confidentiality Act, but some were not. The judge ordered a portion to be disclosed in partially redacted form.

Renaissance refused and was held in contempt of court.  Renaissance appealed the court’s rulings.

On appeal, Renaissance argued that the Illinois Confidentiality Act and physician-patient privilege both prohibit the disclosure of Doe’s records and the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that any of the exceptions to the Confidentiality Act applied.

The Illinois Appellate Court cited a U.S. Supreme Court case in emphasizing that the HIPAA law is designed to be extremely protective of patient’s mental health information and anyone seeking the non-consensual release of mental health information faces a formidable challenge and must show that disclosure is authorized in the law.

Holman cited a case in which a patient in a hospital was attacked with a knife and, in discovery, requested information about the hospital employees with whom her attacker had contact.

The appeals panel in that case was not persuaded by the argument, noting they did not disclose any actual records or communications about the attacker with the court “specifically concluding that ‘no information’ about [the attacker’s] medical or mental condition is required when answering those interrogatories.”

Here, the Illinois Appellate Court found this was not the same circumstances with the instant case. The appellate court noted that Holman had failed to assert the applicability of any exception to the Confidentiality Act, instead arguing the act was “inapplicable to the requested nursing home records.”

As it was found that Holman had made no showing that there was an applicable exception to the Illinois Confidentiality Act in this case, the appellate court concluded that the lower court had erred in issuing its discovery order and in finding The Renaissance in contempt of court. The appellate court therefore reversed and remanded the case for further disposition and vacated the contempt order against Renaissance.

John Stuckey, as Attorney-in-Fact for Robert Holman v. The Renaissance at Midway, et al., 2015 IL App (1st) 1143111.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling nursing home abuse cases, nursing home litigation, long-term care facility litigation, birth injury cases and medical malpractice cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Crystal Lake, Round Lake Beach, Wilmette, Evanston, Bridgeview, Morton Grove, Niles, Des Plaines, Winnetka, Harvard, Wheaton, Waukegan, Lake Bluff, Zion, Mundelein, Chicago (Midway, Hyde Park, Hegewisch, Lake Calumet, East Side, South Loop, West Town, New Town, Wicker Park, Rogers Park, Kenwood, Edgewater), Long Grove and Schaumburg, Ill.

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