Confidentiality of Medical Records

Stuckey v. Renaissance at Midway, 2015 IL App (1st) 143111, 45 N.E.3d 1151 (Il. Dec. 18, 2015)

In litigation over nursing home liability for a resident’s assault on another resident, state confidentiality laws prohibit and prevent discovery by the plaintiff of the medical records of the resident who committed the assault.

Background: While a resident at a long-term care facility operated by defendants, Robert Holman was physically assaulted by another resident. Plaintiff Johnnie Stuckey— as attorney-in-fact for Holman—filed a personal injury action to recover damages incurred in the assault. Plaintiff moved to compel defendants to produce partially redacted records regarding the resident who assaulted Holman. Defense counsel refused and was held in “friendly contempt.” On appeal, defendants contended that the circuit court erred in ordering production of the records, arguing that both the Illinois’ Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (the “Confidentiality Act”) and physician-patient privilege prohibited disclosure of the records.

Holdings: The appellate court agreed with the defendants, reversing the circuit court’s discovery orders and vacating the order imposing a fine on defendants for refusal to comply with those discovery orders. The appellate court concluded that the records were protected by the Confidentiality Act and that, because the plaintiff had not shown any exception to the provisions of the Act, the defendant could not be compelled to produce the records.

Notable Points:

Plaintiff failed to raise any possible exception to the Confidentiality Act that would authorize disclosure: Because plaintiff sought records including patient information forms, nurse’s notes, care plans, and social service progress notes—all documents that constitute “records” or “communications” under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act—plaintiff was required to demonstrate a specific exception to the Confidentiality Act that allowed disclosure. Statutory exceptions, however, are “narrowly crafted” and plaintiff never asserted the applicability of any exception.

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 1