DEPARTURE FROM ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF LAW TO ORDER THE PRODUCTION OF DEFENDANT’S MEDICAL RECORDS WITHOUT AN IN- CAMERA INSPECTION – WHILE SOME SUBSET OF THE RECORDS MAY HAVE BEEN RELEVANT TO DEFENDANT’S MENTAL CAPACITY, REQUIRING PRODUCTION OF “ANY AND ALL” RECORDS CAST TOO WIDE A NET
Tanner v. Hart, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D138 (Fla. 2nd DCA January 8, 2021):
The plaintiff sued the defendant in connection with a 2014 automobile accident that occurred when defendant was 79 years old. The plaintiff sought to depose the defendant who was then in hospice care, and suffered memory loss in connection with her dementia.
After learning of the diagnosis, the plaintiff sought production of “any and all” (medical records listing the various kinds). The defendant objected based on violation of the right to privacy.
The trial court initially sustained the objections, but then granted the plaintiff’s request for reconsideration and directed production of the records for an almost ten- year time period without ordering an in-camera inspection.
It is well settled that patient’s medical records enjoy a confidential status by virtue of the right to privacy found in Article I, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution. Thus, an order compelling production of a party’s medical records satisfies the jurisdictional element of an irreparable harm.
While some of the defendant’s medical records may have been relevant to her mental capacity at the time of the accident and her current capacity to be deposed, some subset of the records might not have been, and the request of “any and all” cast too wide a net.
The trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by compelling disclosure of nearly ten years’ worth of categorically inclusive medical information without first determining its relevance, and balancing the need for such information against the defendant’s constitutionally protected privacy interests.