Thursday, December 17, 2015

Judge Nealon of Lackawanna County Rules on Discoverability of a Doctor's Credentials File Materials in Med Mal Case

In the recent Opinion in the case of Vaccaro v. Scranton Quincy Hospital Company, LLC,, No. 2014-CV-7675 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Dec. 8, 2015 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed discovery issues raised by the Plaintiff in a medical malpractice action.  

In this matter, the Plaintiff sought to compel the Defendant hospital to produce the medical malpractice litigation history records that the hospital obtained relative to the Defendant Obstetrician in connection with the Obstetrician’s initial application or clinical privileges.  The Plaintiff also sought the production of the bi-annual “ongoing professional practice evaluation” reports prepared by the hospital with respect to the Defendant-Obstetrician.  Also at issue under the motion to compel, were two (2) warning letters that the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer and Medical Records Consultant forwarded to the Defendant-Obstetrician regarding delinquent medical records.  

The hospital contended that these “credentials file” materials were protected from discovery by the Peer Review Protection Act.  

Judge Terrence R. Nealon
Lackawanna County
After providing a thorough review of the Peer Review Protection Act in conjunction with the rules of discovery, Judge Nealon generally noted that, under the Peer Review Protection Act, records that are generated or maintained by hospitals in ordinary course of business, rather than as part of a peer review or quality assurance process by hospital “review organization,” are not shielded from discovery. 

Accordingly, the court ruled that the Obstetrician’s malpractice claims information compiled by the hospital in connection with the Obstetrician’s initial application for clinical privileges was not protected from discovery.   The court found that these documents were not prepared by or submitted to the Peer Review or a Patient Safety Committee.  The Court also noted that these documents were relevant to the Plaintiff’s corporate liability claim against the hospital for allegedly failing to select and retain only competent physicians.  

Judge Nealon also ruled that the two (2) written warnings prepared by the Medical Records Department representatives addressed to the Obstetrician did not involve the disclosure of peer review information that was developed as part of a quality assurance examination and, as such, these records were also found to be discoverable.  

The Court generally noted that the malpractice history materials and medical records warnings did not come with a blanket protection from the Peer Review Act merely by being placed in the Obstetrician’s credentials file.

The Court did otherwise also rule that the bi-annual professional practice evaluations which were submitted to the hospital’s Quality Management Department for the express purpose of assessing professional competence and improving the quality of patient care, and which were specifically classified as confidential and privileged peer review information, were immune from discovery under the Peer Review Protection Act.

Overall, the Plaintiff's motion to compel was granted in part and denied in part.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may click this LINK.


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