Wellstar Health System, Inc. v. Jordan

Following the death of his wife, appellee James Jordan initiated this medical malpractice action against appellants Wellstar Health System, Inc. and Dr. James Sutherland (collectively "Wellstar"). As part of its discovery plan, Wellstar sought to conduct informal ex parte interviews of certain non-party health care providers who previously had treated Jordan's spouse. Wellstar moved the trial court for a protective order. After a hearing, the trial court issued a qualified protective order authorizing Wellstar to conduct ex parte interviews of named health care providers for the limited purpose of questioning them about the "development of, diagnosis of, and treatment of the cancerous condition which caused or contributed to the death of Marilyn Kay Adams Jordan." Although the trial court determined that the circumstances did not require Wellstar's counsel to provide Jordan with prior notice of or an opportunity to appear at the interviews, it did require that "the interviews be transcribed by a court reporter should Jordan make a written request for transcription." Jordan asked that the interviews be transcribed and subsequently sought their production. Wellstar objected to production of the transcripts, claiming they were not subject to discovery because they constituted protected work product. Jordan filed a motion to compel, which the trial court granted without conducting an in-camera review in an order summarily rejecting Wellstar's work product claim. The Court of Appeals denied Wellstar's application for interlocutory appeal, and the Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to determine the propriety of the trial court's production order. The Court found that production of such material was not required by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") or the language of the protective order entered in this case, but the Court vacated the trial court's judgment. "HIPAA . . .does not require the production of the transcripts at issue. Because no findings have been made with regard to waiver or the second criteria for production of the transcripts and the trial court sits as the trier of fact in discovery disputes, the case must be remanded to the trial court." View "Wellstar Health System, Inc. v. Jordan" on Justia Law