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NORMAN O. AAMODT AND MARJORIE M. AAMODT v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/06/86)

decided: January 6, 1986.

NORMAN O. AAMODT AND MARJORIE M. AAMODT, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the decision of the Department of Health in case of Norman O. Aamodt and Marjorie M. Aamodt, dated January 17, 1985.

COUNSEL

Norman O. Aamodt and Marjorie M. Aamodt, petitioners, for themselves.

Ruth E. Granfors, Assistant Counsel, with her, Ruth M. Siegel, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri. Judge Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Barbieri

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 55]

Norman O. Aamodt and Marjorie M. Aamodt, Petitioners, appeal here a decision of the Department of Health (Department) which denied their request for information under the Right to Know Act (Act), Act of June 21, 1957, P.L. 390, as amended, 65 P.S. §§ 66.1-66.4. The Department denied their request on the

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 56]

    basis that the information desired did not fall within the right to know law's definition of "public record." We affirm.

The following facts are pertinent. Following the March 28, 1979 accident at the Unit 2 reactor of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI), the Department instituted a study on the effects of the TMI accident on pregnancy outcomes in the vicinity of TMI. In the course of this study, the Department collected information on pregnancy outcomes for an area within a ten-mile radius of TMI for the period of 1976 through 1984. The Department assured each of the participants in its study that all identifying data would be confidential information and that no information would be released to persons other than "collaborating researchers" without the written consent of the individual involved. By letter dated January 5, 1985, Petitioners requested from the Department the "raw data" from its TMI pregnancy study. The Department denied Petitioners' request for the TMI pregnancy study raw data as it contained individual identifiable data and because of the promise of confidentiality made by the Department to the study participants. The Department did, however, offer to provide the Petitioners with a statistical abstract of that data once its final report was issued. It is from the denial of their request for access to the TMI pregnancy study "raw data" that Petitioners now appeal.

In this appeal Petitioners contend that (1) the "raw data" obtained by the Department during the course of its TMI pregnancy study constitutes a "public record" under Section 1(2) of the Act, 65 P.S. § 66.1(2) which is subject to disclosure under Section 2 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 66.2; and (2) that the Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it refused to acknowledge Petitioners as "collaborating researchers"

[ 94 Pa. Commw. Page 57]

    and denied them access to the confidential data of the TMI pregnancy study. We shall address these issues in the order stated, duly noting that our scope of review under the Act is limited to determining whether the Department's denial of the request for the desired information was for just and proper cause. Section 4 of the Act, 65 P.S. § 66.4.

Initially, Petitioners argue that the "raw data" which they desire is a "public record" as defined by 65 P.S. § 66.1(2). That section ...


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