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Doe v. St. Vincent Medical Group, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 8, 2019

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. VINCENT MEDICAL GROUP, INC., ST. VINCENT CARMEL HOSPITAL, INC., and HANNAH THORNTON, R.N., N.P., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In connection with a discovery dispute in a separate Indiana case, Defendants St. Vincent Medical Group (“SVMG”), St. Vincent Carmel Hospital, Inc. (the “Hospital”), and Hannah Thornton, R.N., N.P. filed a motion to issue an authorizing order for the disclosure of the rest of Plaintiff Jane Doe's records at the Positive Sobriety Institute (“PSI”). The Court denies Defendants' motion because Defendants have not shown whether such records exist or even a good faith attempt to determine whether such records exist, and instead have attempted an end-run around their denied motion to compel such records in the Indiana case, which is not a proper use of the federal courts.

         BACKGROUND

         Doe is an OB/GYN physician practicing at SVMG in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has staff privileges at the Hospital in Carmel, Indiana. Doe sued these entities, along with Thornton, an employee of the Hospital, in Indiana Commercial Court in Marion County. She is pursuing claims of fraud, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, tortious interference with employment relationship, defamation, and conspiracy. This matter is currently pending under Indiana case number 49D01-1807-PL-026160 (the “Indiana Lawsuit”).

         In the Indiana Lawsuit, Doe alleges that in December 2017, Thornton falsely accused her of having an odor of alcohol on her breath while she was at work. Although no one timely tested Doe's blood alcohol level, Thornton's employer, the Hospital, questioned Doe about the incident and referred the matter to Doe's employer, SVMG. SVMG placed Doe on administrative leave and did not allow her to return to work until she sought an evaluation for alcohol abuse through the Indiana State Medical Association (“ISMA”).

         The ISMA referred Doe to PSI in Chicago. PSI diagnosed Doe with “alcohol use disorder” and subsequently treated her for it. After completing PSI's treatment program in March 2018, Doe returned to work, subject to a five-year monitoring contract with the ISMA.

         Doe disagrees with PSI's diagnosis that she is an alcoholic; however, for the purposes of the Indiana Lawsuit, Doe argues that she need not prove that PSI erred in its diagnosis to prevail on her claims.

         Defendants and Doe have been engaged in this discovery dispute regarding the production of Doe's records at PSI for some time. Initially, Defendants requested that Doe sign a written authorization that would have permitted Defendants' counsel to directly request and obtain Doe's evaluation and treatment records from PSI. Doe did not sign the authorization; rather, she obtained the records from PSI and produced them to Defendants. She produced these documents under a protective order designating all documents related to her counseling and treatment records as attorney eyes' only. See Doc. 1-3.

         The records custodian at PSI then produced documents to Defendants' counsel relating to Doe's records at PSI, “including only the Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Assessment Program, Lab Tests, History & Physical, Treatment Plan, Progress Notes, Discharge Summary and Billing Statements.” Doc. 18-1 at 2. The records custodian continued, saying “[w]e think this will give you enough information. If after review, you need more information or more records, let us know.” Id. Defendants later responded to the records custodian, writing: “[a]ttached are the records you sent us. I just need you to review and let me know what else hasn't been sent to our offices. If there is more, we need all of it.” Doc. 18-2 at 2. The records custodian replied: “[y]es, we sent you all the documents.” Id.

         Subsequently, Defendants filed a motion to compel against Doe, which the Indiana court denied with respect to the request for written authorizations for records access with PSI and ISMA. See Doc. 1-4 at 1. Following this denial, Defendants filed the present motion to issue a subpoena to PSI for Doe's records.

         ANALYSIS

         42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2 governs this discovery dispute, which protects the confidentiality of records containing the “identity, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of any patient which are maintained in connection with the performance of any program or activity relating to substance abuse education, prevention, training, treatment, rehabilitation, or research, which is conducted, regulated, or directly or indirectly assisted by any department or agency of the United States.” 42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2(a). Two regulations, 42 C.F.R. §§ 2.63 and 2.64, control the process of disclosing these confidential records without the patient's consent. 42 C.F.R. § 2.63 lists the three instances in which a court may order disclosure:

(a) A court order under the regulations in this part may authorize disclosure of confidential communications made by a patient to a part 2 program[1] in the course of diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment only if:
(1) The disclosure is necessary to protect against an existing threat to life or of serious bodily injury, including circumstances which constitute suspected child abuse and ...

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