Evidentiary Value of a Missing X-Ray In a Medical Malpractice Suit

In Rodgers v. St. Mary's Hospital of Decatur, 149 Ill. 2d 302, 597 N.E.2d 616, 173 Ill. Dec. 642 (1992), repeatedly cited with approval by the court in River Park, the supreme court refused to apply res judicata although there clearly was a relationship between the claims at issue in the two cases. Rodgers involved an action against a hospital under the X-Ray Retention Act arising out of its alleged failure to keep an X-ray. Plaintiff there claimed that he had been damaged by his wife's wrongful death as a result of the hospital's breach of its obligation. The hospital argued that this second action was barred by the final judgment in a prior medical malpractice action by the plaintiff against the hospital arising out of his wife's treatment. Notwithstanding the fact that there was an obvious connection between the two cases, having both related to the wife's treatment at the defendant hospital, the court held that even under the transactional analysis, they were not the same causes of action for res judicata purposes because the "facts essential to each suit did not arise from the same transactions or incidents." Rodgers, 149 Ill. 2d at 312. The court further explained that the duty to preserve the X-ray, the incidents causing the X-ray to be missing, and the potential evidentiary value of the missing X-ray all were issues unrelated to determining medical malpractice liability in the first cause of action. Rodgers, 149 Ill. 2d at 313. To the same effect are: American National Bank, 269 Ill. App. 3d at 406-07; Regan v. Ivanelli, 246 Ill. App. 3d 798, 807-08, 617 N.E.2d 808, 187 Ill. Dec. 351 (1993); Stathis v. First Arlington National Bank, 226 Ill. App. 3d 47, 53, 168 Ill. Dec. 225, 589 N.E.2d 625 (1992); Benton v. Smith, 157 Ill. App. 3d 847, 854-55, 510 N.E.2d 952, 109 Ill. Dec. 884 (1987); Pfeiffer v. William Wrigley Jr. Co., 139 Ill. App. 3d 320, 324, 484 N.E.2d 1187, 92 Ill. Dec. 332 (1985).