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New York Court Explains the Quality-Assurance Privilege in Medical Malpractice Cases

Discovery is a key element in medical malpractice matters, as in most instances, it is the best tool parties can use to obtain evidence to support their claims or defenses. Broadly speaking, any information that is relevant is discoverable. There is certain information that is protected from disclosure, though, such as statements made during a quality assurance or medical review meeting. Recently, a New York court explained when the quality-assurance privilege applies in a medical malpractice case in which the defendant objected to the plaintiff’s discovery requests. If you were hurt due to incompetent care that you received in a hospital, you may be owed damages, and you should talk to a Rochester medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent sustained brain trauma in a car accident, after which he was transported to the defendant hospital. The defendant doctors evaluated the decedent and determined he suffered a skull fracture, hemorrhaging, a subdural hematoma, and herniation of the brain. He was removed from life support and died a short time later.

Reportedly, the plaintiff filed medical malpractice claims against the defendants and submitted discovery requests seeking the medical reports, hospital records, and reports from peer review meetings. The defendants moved for a protective order on the grounds that the quality-assurance privilege protected peer review meeting minutes from disclosure. The court denied their motion, and they appealed.

The Quality-Assurance Privilege in Medical Malpractice Cases

The primary issue on appeal was whether the scope of the quality-assurance privilege extended to the documents sought by the plaintiff. Specifically, whether a defendant arguing that the quality-assurance privilege protects peer-review committee meeting minutes from disclosure bears the burden of establishing that any statements that were made at the meeting and they claim are privileged were made by a person who is not a party to the subject lawsuit, and therefore do not fall under the party-statement exception to the privilege.

The defendants argued that the party-statement exception to the quality-assurance privilege could not apply in matters in which the minutes from a peer review meeting do not identify the speaker. The court disagreed and ultimately concluded that a defendant arguing that the quality-assurance privilege applies must show that any statements made during a peer-review meeting were not made by a party. As such, if the minutes do not provide the identity of the speaker, the party-statement exception to the quality-assurance privilege is applicable. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Capable Rochester Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Records pertaining to a plaintiff’s treatment are generally discoverable in medical malpractice cases, and a defendant arguing that a privilege bars the disclosure of such documents faces a high burden of proof. If you were injured by a negligent doctor, it is smart for you to consult a medical malpractice lawyer to determine whether you may be able to pursue a claim for damages. The capable Rochester medical malpractice lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers possess the skills and knowledge needed to help you seek a just outcome, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach us by calling 585-653-7343 or using our online form to set up a meeting.

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