Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Pennsylvania Superior Court Addresses Discoverability of Documents in a Medical Malpractice Case

In the case of Ungurian v. Beyzman, No. 298 MDA 2019 (Pa. Super. April 28, 2020 Dubow, J., Lazarus, J., Stabile, J.), the court affirmed a trial court’s granting of a Motion to Compel the production of documents in a medical malpractice case that the Defendant had asserted were protected from production in discovery by the Patient Safety Quality Improvement Act and/or the Peer Review Protection Act.

The court ruled that the documents that the Plaintiff sought were not protected by the patient safety or peer review privilege. 

The court reiterated the rule that, to establish a patient safety work product protection in terms of documents, a defendant must produce sufficient facts to show that it prepared the document for reporting to a patient safety organization and also actually reported them to the patient safety organization. 

Here, the court found that the Defendant did not allege a connection to the patient safety organization and, therefore, failed to establish a right to confidentiality. 

The court also noted that the Defendant additionally admitted that another document existed outside of the patient safety evaluation system utilized by the hospital, which resulted in the Defendant forfeiting the privilege asserted with respect to that document. 

The court found that the Defendant's assertion of the peer review privilege failed because the Defendant did not identify members of the relevant review committees at issue. The court also noted that a document produced pursuant to an event reporting policy was an event report and not a peer review report. The court additionally emphasized that a peer review must be conducted by professional healthcare providers. 

In this matter, the court found that the Defendant did not establish that the individuals who conducted the review qualified under this rule of law to allow for any privilege to apply. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.

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