SNF will have to hand over internal reports in negligence case, court rules

SNF will have to hand over internal reports in negligence case, court rules
SNF will have to hand over internal reports in negligence case, court rules

 

An Illinois skilled nursing facility will have to produce internal documents in a negligence lawsuit filed by the family of a resident, an appeals court ruled last week.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014 by the guardian of Laura Lindsey, a resident who was reportedly injured following a fall at Meadowbrook Manor of Naperville in Naperville, IL in 2012. Lindsey's guardian followed up with a discovery request to the facility, seeking all investigation reports.

Meadowbrook refused to hand over the report completed on Lindsey's injury, claiming it was privileged under the Quality Assurance Act and the Medical Studies Act since it was “prepared for the Facility's Quality Assurance Committee.” Lindsey's guardian filed a motion to compel Meadowbrook to produce the report in August 2015; it continued to refuse, and was found by a trial court to be in contempt in December 2015.

The facility also discovered six witness statements prepared along with its internal investigation into Lindsey's fall. It provided them to the plaintiff, but filed a motion for a protective order. A trial court denied Meadowbrook's order in April 2016; the facility indicated that it would refuse to comply and was again held in contempt.

In an opinion published last Thursday, the Appellate Court of Illinois for the Second District noted that while no previous Illinois court has interpreted the Quality Assurance Act, which pertains to long-term care facilities, it can be construed in a similar way as the Medical Studies Act. That act is meant to “encourage candid and voluntary studies and programs used to improve hospital conditions and patient care or to reduce the rates of death and disease,” according to court documents.

“Meadowbrook argues 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,” wrote Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok. “As Meadowbrook's argument is clearly without merit under the Medical Studies Act …  it is also without merit under the Quality Assurance Act. “

Schostok also wrote Meadowbrook's argument — that the documents should be privileged since “if not for the existence of the quality assurance committee, the documents at issue would have never been created” — was “unpersuasive.”

The appeals court declined to let the facility keep documents other than residents' medical records privileged. The case will return to trial court.