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Greater New York Mutual Insurance Co. v. Bell Socialization Services

June 18, 2009

GREATER NEW YORK MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, A/S/O R.P. MANAGEMENT, INC., AND NEW S.P. ASSOCIATES L.P., D/B/A SUBURBAN PARK APARTMENTS, PLAINTIFF
v.
BELL SOCIALIZATION SERVICES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

These matters, consolidated for purposes of discovery, are before the Court on the Motion to Quash Subpoena (Doc. 24) of non-party York/Adams Mental Health and Mental Retardation ("MHMR") and the Motion to Compel Discovery Responses (Doc. 27) of plaintiff Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company ("GNY").*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, MHMR's motion will be granted, GNY's motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and these actions will be stayed pending appointment of a guardian ad litem for the defendants/third-party defendants Stephen Sponseller and Anna Carson.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are derived from the complaints in these two actions. Defendant Bell Socialization Services, Inc. ("Bell"), a private non-profit corporation, placed Steven Sponseller and Ann Carson, two "mentally challenged" adult individuals, in apartments at Suburban Park Apartments in York, Pennsylvania. On March 10, 2007, Carson started a fire in her apartment, which destroyed her unit and others, severely damaged a nearby building, and caused damage throughout the complex. On January 22, 2008, Sponseller started a fire in his apartment, which destroyed his unit, damaged other units and common areas, damaged a nearby building, and caused damage throughout the complex.

At the time of the fires, GNY provided insurance to R.P. Management, Inc., and pursuant to that insurance, made payments for the damage caused by the fires. In these actions, GNY, as subrogee of R.P. Management and Suburban Park Apartments, has asserted claims of breach of contract; negligence; negligent hiring, supervision, and retention; and gross negligence against Bell. Bell impleaded Sponseller and Carson.

On August 11, 2008, GNY propounded requests for production of documents to Bell, seeking, inter alia, all medical records of Sponseller and Carson. (Docs. 27-2, 27-3.) Bell objected to disclosing Sponseller's medical records, stating that disclosure of such records is prohibited by Pennsylvania's Mental Health Procedures Act ("MPHA"), 50 Pa. C.S. § 7101, et seq. (Doc. 27-4 at 3.) Nevertheless, it appears that Bell did produce documents responsive that GNY's request. (Id.) Bell did not object to GNY's request for production of Carson's medical records, but noted that all of Carson's records were destroyed in the fire. (Doc. 27-5 at 5.) Again, however, it appears that Bell produced some documents responsive to GNY's request. (Id.) GNY has moved to compel the production of responsive documents withheld by Bell. (Doc. 27.) Bell has not responded to this motion.*fn2

On September 19, 2008, GNY issued to MHMR two subpoenas seeking all records for Sponseller and Carson. (Doc. 26.) MHMR has moved to quash the subpoenas, arguing disclosure of its records is prohibited by the MHPA. MHMR also seeks an order directing that any privileged documents which have already been produced to GNY be returned. In response to this Court's order, MHMR produced copies of the at issue documents for in camera review and also produced a privilege log which indicates the basis for the claim of privilege as to each document.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Privilege Under the MHPA

MHMR has asserted that the documents responsive to GNY's subpoenas and requests for production are privileged under the MHPA. The purpose of the MHPA is to establish procedures which implement Pennsylvania's policy of seeking to assure the availability of adequate treatment to persons who are mentally ill. 50 Pa. C.S. § 7102. The act "establishes rights and procedures for all involuntary treatment of mentally ill persons, whether inpatient or outpatient, and for all voluntary inpatient treatment of mentally ill persons." Id. § 7103.

In furtherance of its goals, the MHPA provides broad protection to the confidentiality of records:

All documents concerning persons in treatment shall be kept confidential and, without the person's written consent, may not be released or their contents disclosed to anyone except:

(1) those engaged in providing treatment for the person;

(2) the county administrator, pursuant to section 110;

(3) a court in the course of legal proceedings authorized ...


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