Thursday, October 14, 2021

Notable Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision on Scope of Peer Review Privilege (From August, 2021)


In the case of Leadbitter v. Keystone Anesthesia Consultants, No. 19 WAP 2020 (Pa. Aug. 17, 2021)(Op. by Saylor, J.)(Wecht, J., Concurring), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a long-awaited decision relative to the scope of the Peer Review Protection Act.

In its decision, the court held that a hospital’s credentials committee qualified as a “review committee” for purposes of the Peer Review Protection Act to the extent it undertook peer reviews.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court additionally held that the Federal Healthcare Quality and Improvement Act of 1986 protected from disclosure the responses provided by the National Practitioner Databank to queries submitted to it, regardless of any contrary state law.

This matter arose out of a medical malpractice action. The Plaintiff sought the credentialing file of a certain doctor.  The Plaintiff was seeking this information to support their claim that the hospital’s credentialing was inadequate and allegedly led to the injuries sustained by the Plaintiff during surgery.

During the course of discovery, the hospital, while providing portions of the credentialing file, refused to disclose certain documents that contained evaluations prepared by other practitioners of the Defendant doctor’s performance, as well as responses to queries submitted to the National Practitioner Databank.

After the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel in this regard, these issues worked their way up the appellate ladder to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision summarized here.

The majority Opinion in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ledbitter noted that the Peer Review Protection Act privilege only applies to a “review committee,” which is a committee engaging in peer review. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the hospital that a credentials committee is a “review committee” to the extent that it reviewed the quality and efficiency of care provided by a healthcare practitioner.

On the Federal Healthcare Quality and Improvement Act issues, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the language of the statute and the purpose of the statute supported the hospital’s position that responses to the queries submitted to the National Practitioner Databank are privileged and that federal privilege trumps state law that would otherwise permit disclosure of that information.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of the Majority Opinion for this decision may click this LINK.  The Concurring Opinion by Justice Wecht can be viewed HERE.


I send thanks to Attorney Laura A. Endler, counsel for the Geisinger Health System, for bringing this case to my attention.


Source of image:  Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash.com.

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