DBMS secured a victory on behalf of a hospital in a landmark case before the Illinois Appellate Court. The appellate court agreed with DBMS that the federal Patient Safety Act and Quality Improvement Act (PSA) protects patient safety reports made pursuant to the Act from discovery in a medical malpractice case and preempts state law. Read the full decision here.
This is the first Illinois appellate court decision to hold that reports made by a hospital for purposes of improving patient safety under the PSA are privileged against discovery in a medical malpractice case. This ruling will encourage health care providers and professionals to participate in the voluntary reporting system created by the PSA and continue to improve patient care.
The PSA is a federal law that established a system in which health care providers voluntarily report patient safety information to federally-certified patient safety organizations. These organizations collect and analyze the reported data and recommend ways in which health care providers can improve patient safety and quality of care. To encourage participation, the PSA provides privilege and confidentiality protections for submitted information, which includes data, reports and written records.
Protections under the PSA are expansive, and the privilege applies to protect reports from disclosure in all venues, including federal, state and administrative courts and tribunals, with few exceptions. The purpose of the privilege is to encourage health care providers and professionals to report patient safety events and make recommendations without fear of liability.
This appeal arose from Daley v. Teruel, a medical malpractice suit filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, where the family of a deceased person alleged that a hospital, through its nurses, failed to properly monitor and respond to the decedent’s glucose levels.
During written discovery, the plaintiff sought information on whether the hospital reported the events that led to plaintiff’s lawsuit to any hospital or governmental committee, agency or body. On behalf of the hospital, DBMS objected based on the PSA.
The plaintiff filed a motion seeking production of these documents. After reviewing the privileged documents and hearing argument, the Circuit Court held that parts of these documents were not privileged under the PSA.
DBMS then appealed to the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court. On behalf of the hospital, DBMS argued that the PSA protected the documents from disclosure because the hospital prepared the documents for the purpose of improving patient safety and reporting to a patient safety organization. DBMS, on behalf of the hospital, further argued that the federal PSA preempts state law, including the trial court’s order to produce the privileged documents. The appellate court agreed with DBMS and reversed the Circuit Court’s decision.
As a result of this ruling, Illinois hospitals that engage in voluntary reporting of events through the PSA can continue to improve patient safety and quality of care with the reassurance that, if an event results in litigation, such reports will not be subject to discovery.
DBMS attorneys continue to work remotely in compliance with the Governor's ongoing shelter in place order and to ensure the safety of our clients, employees and colleagues. In addition to focusing on the work entrusted to us by our clients before the Covid-19 pandemic, we are assisting our clients in protecting medical caregivers from being compelled to turn away from their patients to participate in litigation activities that can wait until the virus is under control.
We salute the medical providers who are valiantly risking their personal safety for the benefit of all of us. Thank you. You are heroes.