Everyone knows that evidence is an essential part of winning any lawsuit. However, how do you go about finding relevant evidence? If you are involved in a lawsuit, you are entitled to discovery to obtain information pertinent to your claims and help defend yourself. However, discovery is not limitless. Instead, numerous restrictions are imposed to ensure that parties cannot go on fishing expeditions. It is essential to understand these restrictions, especially when seeking information involving personal data such as medical records.
The family of Kenneth Scully sued Dr. Derrick Dean for medical malpractice after Scully died after he was admitted to the emergency room where Dean had been working. Scully’s family and Dean settled for $450,000 before a medical review panel was convened. After the settlement, Dean sued the law firm he had retained to represent him, Gachassin Law Firm.
Gachassin tried to compel the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy (the “Board”) to disclose information regarding Dean’s access to an online database concerning Scully, including Dean’s login and search history. The database contained information about dispensing controlled substances. Gachassin argued this information could help show inconsistencies with the times Dean claimed to have accessed the database. The trial court ruled in favor of Gachassin on its motion to compel. The Board appealed.
The issue on appeal was whether information related to a doctor’s use of an online portal qualifies as “prescription monitoring information” subject to the limitations in La. R.S. 40:1007. Such information is not available in a civil lawsuit, even if it is highly relevant to the issues in the lawsuit. The trial court found the database login information was not “prescription monitoring information,” as defined in La. R.S. 1003 because it was not providing any information about what the doctor looked like. They analogized the login information to telling when someone opened a door, not what was behind it.
The appellate court held that under the particular facts of this case, the Board’s records related to Dean’s search history of Scully, including the date and time of his access, was not privileged information under La. R.S. 40:1007. The statutory language did not seem to prohibit access to any information maintained by the Board, and the information at issue here did not fall under the restrictions. The appellate court explained the at-issue information was highly relevant to the law firm’s case and could help them defend themselves in the ongoing legal malpractice suit. Although the Board argued that someone searched a particular name is in and of itself revealing the patient’s identity, the appellate court found the at-issue information would not reveal any confidential information from the database. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the law firm’s motion to compel.
The case of Dr. Derrick Dean and the Gachassin Law Firm underscores the importance of understanding the limitations and restrictions imposed during the discovery process. While the trial court ruled in favor of the law firm’s motion to compel the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to disclose information related to Dean’s access to an online database, the appellate court affirmed this decision. By interpreting the statutory language and examining the relevance of the information sought, the appellate court recognized that certain records were not privileged under the restrictions in La. R.S. 40:1007.
This case emphasizes the significance of consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you on the permissible acquisition of information and navigate the intricacies of obtaining evidence in a lawsuit. Armed with this understanding, individuals can enhance their chances of mounting a solid defense or pursuing a successful legal claim.
Additional Sources: Derrick Dean, M.D. v. St. Mary Emergency Group, LLC, et al.
Written by Berniard Law Firm
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