Illinois Appellate Court Issues Opinion in Wrongful Death Case Involving Discovery Dispute About Decedent’s Mental Health Treatment Records

An issue that can come up in a personal injury lawsuit is whether a party is entitled to see a plaintiff’s psychiatric records or discover information about their mental health status or treatment. For obvious reasons, this can be a very sensitive topic for people and the subject matter is not always relevant to the lawsuit at hand. One way to protect yourself from overreaching parties in a lawsuit is to work with a seasoned Chicago personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will stand in your shoes throughout the proceeding and make sure that you are being treated fairly. This includes making sure that your privacy is respected throughout the lawsuit. Contact Therman Law Offices to learn more about whether we can help you.

In a recent wrongful death case, the plaintiffs alleged that they were attacked at the defendant’s amusement park and that they suffered injuries as a result of the attack. They asserted claims for premises liability and negligence among other things. During discovery, the defendant asked the plaintiffs whether they were claiming psychiatric, psychological, or emotional injuries due to the accident. The plaintiffs responded that they were not seeking any such damages. They also refused to provide responses to questions seeking information about previous injuries or illnesses.

Sometime thereafter, the female plaintiff committed suicide. The plaintiff amended the action to add a claim for wrongful death alleging that as a result of the attack and the defendant’s negligence, the decedent suffered debilitating physical injuries that caused pain and suffering including physical injuries to her brain that ultimately led to her suicide. The defendant responded to the wrongful death claim by filing a motion to dismiss. The defendant argued that the suicide was not related to the initial attack that gave rise to the complaint. The plaintiff continued to withhold discovery about the decedent’s mental health, treatment, or any psychiatric information.

The defendant filed a motion to compel the plaintiff to provide psychiatric information, which the lower court granted. The court stated that while the general rule is that psychiatric information is undiscoverable for privacy reasons, the plaintiff put the decedent’s mental health at issue by claiming that the attack caused her to become “bereft of reason.” The plaintiff refused to comply with the court order compelling production of psychiatric information and the court found him in contempt. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the lower court properly ordered the plaintiff to provide information about the decedent’s mental health. The plaintiff introduced the decedent’s mental health as an element of his wrongful death claim, according to the court, entitling the defendant to discover information about her mental health before the accident.

If you were hurt in a personal injury lawsuit, you should consider working with a Chicago personal injury lawyer to make sure that you are treated fairly throughout the legal process. There are countless rules and exceptions that may apply to your case. Having a legal professional at your side can help you make sense of the laws and help you make sure that the other parties in the case are playing by the rules. For a free consultation, contact Therman Law offices now by calling 773-545-8849 or contacting us online.

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