Court re-affirms principle that litigant cannot compel production of third-party patients' identity
Persons pursuing medical malpractice claims have, on several occasions, attempted to compel hospitals to identify patient-roommates in an attempt to corroborate observations or statements related to the litigant's claim. These inquiries have uniformly been rejected by Michigan courts, which have held that the names and contact information of third-party patients are protected from discovery by the physician-patient privilege. When a hospital being sued for malpractice attempted to secure the victim's family members' medical records, the same principle was cited to deny discovery. This week, the Court of Appeals applied the privilege in yet another context.Isidore Steiner, a podiatrist, sued his former employee, Marc Bonanni, alleging that Bonanni breached his employment contract by stealing patients when he left Steiner's employment. Steiner's attorneys filed interrogatories seeking the names, addresses and telephone numbers of "every patient treated by Bonanni after leaving Steiner's employment." Bonanni's attorneys objected, and the trial court ruled that the physician-patient privilege and HIPAA prevented Steiner from demanding this information and Bonanni from providing it. The Court of Appeals agreed and upheld the trial court's ruling.