Any number of injuries, including birth injuries, brain injuries, spinal injuries, and even death, can be caused by a hospital’s mistake, a doctor’s misdiagnosis, anesthesia complications, a physician’s incompetence, and other causes. In Illinois, malpractice actions (lawsuits for negligence) against physicians, psychologists, podiatrists, dentists, hospitals, naprapaths (health care professionals focusing on non-invasive manual techniques), or any physicians licensed to treat people without the use of drugs or surgery must follow the strict procedural guidelines set forth in Section 2-622 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.
Designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits, like many similar state statutes, Sec. 2-622 requires an attorney to first consult with a medical professional before filing the complaint in a court of law. In order to properly initiate the lawsuit, the attorney must attach an affidavit to the Complaint declaring that the attorney has consulted with a medical professional who has reviewed the plaintiff’s injuries and believes the Plaintiff has a meritorious cause of action. A written report from the physician, setting forth the basis for the professional’s opinion, must also be attached.
Section 2-622 requires a medical professional to certify, in writing, that a member of his own profession caused an injury or death in violation of the standard of care. Although frivolous lawsuits are the target, one of the effects of 2-622 is that some meritorious claims will not see the light of day. Medical professionals are not required to review a plaintiff’s case, and extraneous community pressures may indeed keep him/her from certifying a valid claim. In rural communities, where there are fewer health care professionals, many simply refuse to review a potential case for fear of drawing the ire of their peers. In larger communities, such as those in DuPage County, health care professionals may not fear their colleagues, but they most assuredly fear a reprisal from the insurance companies. Tempering these fears, only somewhat, section 2-622 does not require the medical professional to identify himself in the report — for now.
In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly amended Sec. 2-622 by passing Public Act 89-7, which required the written report to clearly identify the name of the medical professional who prepared the report. Shortly thereafter, 89-7 was deemed unconstitutional on unrelated grounds. Best vs. Taylor Machine Works, 689 N.E.2d 1057 (Ill. 1997). However, the Illinois General Assembly attempted to reenact the identification requirements by passing Pub. Act 94-677, although this time realizing the risks 89-7 posed to meritorious claims; 94-677 provided that no insurance company could discriminate against a medical professional because he reviewed or certified a plaintiff’s case. The amendment was again struck down on unrelated grounds. Lebron vs. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, et al., 2010 WL 375190 (Ill. Feb. 4, 2010).
Currently, the state of the law is clear. The physician’s 2-622 report does not need to identify him or her by name. The medical professional who prepared it may remain anonymous to the Court. The current law strikes the appropriate balance between the interests of physicians and injury victims. If you are considering filing a medical malpractice action in Cook County, Kane County, DuPage County, or Will County, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney who can navigate the procedural requirements for bringing your important claim.