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JUNE 1979 ALLEGHENY COUNTY INVESTIGATING GRAND JURY. PETITION MARIO E. J. LANNI (05/30/80)

decided: May 30, 1980.

IN RE THE JUNE 1979 ALLEGHENY COUNTY INVESTIGATING GRAND JURY. PETITION OF MARIO E. J. LANNI


No. 101 W.D. Misc. Dkt. 1980, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, Allegheny County at Court Administrator Docket No. 6 April Term 1979

COUNSEL

Samuel Y. Stroh, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.

Charles A. DeMonaco, Leo M. Dillon, Asst. Dist. Attys., Robert E. Colville, Dist. Atty., for respondent.

Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty and Kauffman, JJ. Roberts and Nix, JJ., filed concurring opinions. Larsen and Flaherty, JJ., filed dissenting opinions.

Author: Eagen

[ 490 Pa. Page 146]

OPINION

On April 2, 1980, the Honorable Robert E. Dauer, supervising judge of the June 1979 Allegheny County Investigating Grand Jury,*fn1 found Dr. Mario J. Lanni, Administrator of West Allegheny Hospital, in civil contempt of court for his refusal to comply with subpoena duces tecum C-2-0082. Lanni filed a petition to review in this Court. We entered a stay of the contempt order on April 3, 1980 and heard argument on April 14, 1980.

The contempt citation was the culmination of the following series of events:

The grand jury issued subpoena duces tecum C-2-0017 to West Allegheny Hospital in connection with an investigation into the Allegheny County Coroner's Office and related activities and business interests involving use and misuse of county facilities, funds, employees, and equipment. The subpoena commanded production of original records and documents pertaining to tissue specimens submitted by West Allegheny Hospital for testing to Pittsburgh Pathology and

[ 490 Pa. Page 147]

Toxicology Laboratory, Inc. (hereinafter P.P. & T.). On September 19, 1979, the hospital administrator appeared before the grand jury and delivered correspondence, cancelled checks, invoices, and itemized billings for tissue specimens submitted to P.P. & T. between January 1974 and May 1976. From this material, the grand jury was able to determine the names of patients whose tissue had been submitted to P.P. & T., the type of tissue submitted, the date the sample arrived at the laboratory, and the lab fees charged. The names, tissue types, and dates of receipt of samples were collated to produce an alphabetical list of patients whose surgical tissue specimens had been submitted to P.P. & T. during the relevant time period.

To aid in determining what portion, if any, of P.P. & T.'s testing was performed at county facilities using county personnel and equipment, the grand jury issued subpoena duces tecum C-2-0082 to the hospital administrator seeking production of the actual tissue reports issued by P.P. & T. for each of the patients on the alphabetical list.*fn2 The hospital administrator informed the grand jury legal advisers by telephone that the hospital would not comply with the subpoena on advice of counsel.*fn3 On February 12, 1980, counsel for the hospital objected in writing that compliance would breach hospital confidentiality and would be unreasonably time-consuming and expensive for the hospital. Counsel further requested a disclosure of the relevancy of the subpoenaed materials. See Appeal of Thomas Hawthorne, 488 Pa. 373, 412 A.2d 556 (1980). Following his review of the Commonwealth's " Schofield " affidavit, counsel for the hospital indicated he intended to file a motion to quash the subpoena, and a hearing date was set.

The supervising judge heard both testimony and argument on the motion to quash on March 3, 1980 and March 11,

[ 490 Pa. Page 1481980]

. The motion was denied on March 21, 1980, and compliance ordered on April 2, 1980. On that date, the hospital administrator appeared before the grand jury and refused to comply with the subpoena on the basis of confidentiality of the records sought. He was brought ...


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