Mendy v. Stauffer
Right to Medical or Educational Records - Scope of Discovery
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The Right To View All Medical or Educational Records - Challenged
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Oriana Mendy sued Angela Stauffer for personal injuries and pain and suffering arising out of an August 2010 automobile accident. Mendy sought medical treatment from several doctors and other healthcare providers that she identified in a January 2013 disclosure statement. In her disclosure statement, she also explained she had taken a leave of absence from school because of the accident. Mendy attached medical records from these providers to the disclosure statement and stated she had requested her school records and would supplement the disclosure statement after she had received them.
The Arizona Court of Appeals Decision Order
In December 2012, before Mendy served her disclosure statement — Stauffer requested Mendy execute authorizations that would have directed Mendy's doctors and other healthcare providers to give Stauffer's counsel "any and all medical records of any kind," including "all confidential HIV related information ... confidential alcohol or drug abuse related information ... and confidential mental health diagnosis/ treatment, psychiatric treatment evaluation, psychotherapy notes and information."
Additionally, in April 2013, Stauffer requested Mendy execute authorizations that would have directed two colleges and a university to give Stauffer's counsel Mendy's academic records (collectively, "educational authorizations"). After Mendy disclosed in her deposition that she had been involved in another automobile accident in May 2011, Stauffer requested Mendy execute additional medical authorizations — identical in form to the December 2012 medical authorizations — that would have directed the healthcare providers who treated Mendy for that accident to produce their treatment records to Stauffer's counsel. For ease of reference, in this decision order we refer to all authorizations for medical records as "medical authorizations" and to all doctors and healthcare providers who were the intended recipients of those medical authorizations as "providers."
Mendy did not execute any of the medical or educational authorizations. Stauffer moved to compel her to do so. In response, Mendy argued "no authority" required her to sign any authorization that would allow Stauffer to obtain her entire medical and school history, asserted the medical authorizations were overbroad and would require the providers to disclose medical records unrelated to any medical condition at issue in the case, and offered to file with the court her "medical records not 'placed at issue'" for an in camera inspection. The court granted Stauffer's motion to compel.
In Arizona, statutory provisions protect the privacy of a person's communications with medical professionals and his or her medical records. Mendy provided Stauffer with certain medical records that she contends pertained to her injuries and treatment arising out of the 2012 automobile accident. Stauffer, however, argues she is entitled to see all of the providers' records to verify for herself whether Mendy has disclosed all medical records relevant to this case.
Although a superior court has considerable discretion in resolving discovery disputes, it may not order a party to disclose information regarding that party's medical condition which the party has not placed at issue. The superior court rejected of Mendy's request for an in camera inspection of the providers' records she contended were not at issue.
The superior court should have inspected in camera the providers' records that Mendy argued were not at issue and offered to provide to the court. We therefore remand this matter to the superior court. On remand, Mendy shall provide the superior court with the providers' records and the superior court shall conduct an in camera inspection to determine whether any information in those records "might lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and hence, what portions, if any," Stauffer would be entitled to review.
Finally, The Arizona Court of Appeals need not decide Mendy's argument that as a matter of law, a superior court may not order a party to execute an authorization for medical records. Under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1)(A), Stauffer is entitled to "discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party."
Decision: The superior court was directed to conduct an in-camera inspection.
In her reply in support of her petition for special action, Mendy acknowledges "her scholastic records are relevant and are not privileged." She argues, however, the superior court cannot compel her to execute the educational authorizations because no rule, statute, or precedent requires this. The Arizona Court of Appeals disagrees.
Under Rule 34 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may be required to produce documents "in the possession, custody or control of [that] party." Rule 34 control does not require actual possession of the document — only that a party has the right and ability to obtain the document.
Because Mendy was able to obtain her educational records and the superior court was entitled to compel her to produce them. As such, the court was entitled to compel Mendy to sign the educational authorizations as a means of production.
Decision: The superior court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Mendy to execute the educational authorizations.
Read the entire document here: Mendy v. Stauffer - Court Of Appeals Decision Order