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Williams v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 22, 2014

DWIGHT WILLIAMS, ET AL.,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL.,

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is non-party Corizon Health, Inc.'s Request to not produce patient mental health records requested by Plaintiffs (ECF No. 117). For the following reasons, Corizon's Request will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a putative class action brought by inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System ("PPS") seeking equitable relief and alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs commenced the action on April 28, 2008, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Plaintiffs complain of overcrowding and triple-celling in the county-operated PPS. ( Id. ¶ 3.) In particular, Plaintiffs allege that the City of Philadelphia's ("City") policies and practices led to the deprivation of necessary medical and mental health care for PPS inmates. ( Id. ¶ 29.)

On October 8, 2010, the Court certified the case as a class action, defining the relevant class as:

All persons who are or will in the future be confined in the Philadelphia Prison System, and who are or will in the future be subjected to the conditions of confinement, including triple celling, or placement in dormitories, without minimally adequate security, services or programs as set forth in plaintiffs' Complaint.

(Oct. 8, 2010 Order, ECF No. 80.) Plaintiffs' current counsel was appointed to serve as class counsel. On August 8, 2011, after the inmate population in the PPS significantly decreased, the Court approved a settlement agreement between the parties that would preserve the status quo and provide for monitoring of the situation by Plaintiffs' counsel over the coming years. (Aug. 8, 2011 Mem. Op. 2-3, ECF No. 93.) In the fall of 2012, Plaintiffs exercised their right under the settlement agreement to reopen the case due to a rising inmate population in the PPS.

After the case was reopened, the parties entered into extensive discovery. In April 2013 the parties arranged a tour of the PPS facilities for Plaintiffs' expert witnesses. (Pls.' Ltr. Br. 2, ECF No. 118.) Following the tour, Plaintiffs' counsel served supplemental discovery requests on the City, seeking documents related to medical and mental health care in the PPS facilities. The City sought to obtain the requested information from Corizon Health, Inc. ("Corizon"), the contracted provider of medical services in the PPS. Corizon was concerned that the disclosure of the requested documents would implicate issues under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"), Pub. L. No. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936 (1996), and the Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA"), 50 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 7101 et seq. To relieve Corizon's concerns, all involved counsel entered into a negotiated Protective Order that was approved by the Court and entered on August 27, 2013. (2013 Protective Order, ECF No. 108.) The 2013 Protective Order specifically provided that the requested materials would be used only for purposes of the instant litigation and would be destroyed or returned to Corizon at the conclusion of the litigation. ( Id. ) In addition, Corizon was permitted to redact mental health records protected under the MHPA and was required to produce actual medical charts of plaintiff class members only if the plaintiff class member signed a HIPAA compliant release. ( Id. ) Corizon then produced information in accordance with the Protective Order. (Pls.' Ltr. Br. 3.)

Plaintiffs' expert witnesses reviewed the information provided by Corizon and determined that a broader scope of materials was needed to complete their assessment of the adequacy of care provided to PPS inmates. (Pls.' Ltr. Br. 3.) On December 12, 2013, Plaintiffs' counsel served the City with twelve additional requests for production. ( Id. at Ex. A.) The information requested includes logs of mental health requests for all PPS sites in September 2013, with inmate names, PPS numbers, and dates of requests. ( Id. at Ex. A Request 12.) In addition, the requests could require the production of actual medical charts of various inmates, including mental health records. ( Id. at Ex. A Request 7.) The City agreed to provide the requested materials subject to the entry of an additional protective order. The parties negotiated and drafted a new protective order ("2014 Protective Order"). (Corizon Ltr. Br. Ex. A, ECF No. 117.) Corizon was not involved in the negotiations. ( Id. at 2.)

The current dispute arose when Counsel for Corizon declined to sign the 2014 Protective Order. According to Corizon, even a court order that limits the use of the requested materials to litigation purposes, and requires the destruction or return of materials at the conclusion of the litigation, does not satisfy the MHPA's confidentiality provisions. On March 18, 2014, the Court held a telephone conference with the parties to discuss the issue. (ECF No. 115.) After hearing the parties' positions, the Court ordered the parties to submit briefs outlining the legal authority supporting their positions. (ECF No. 116.)

On March 27, 2014, Corizon submitted a Letter Brief in support of its position that the new protective order did not provide sufficient protection to allow disclosure of certain requested information under the MHPA. (Corizon Ltr. Br.) Plaintiffs submitted a Letter Brief in Opposition on April 7, 2014. (Pls.' Ltr. Br.) On April 10, 2014, Corizon responded (ECF No. 119), and Plaintiffs replied (Pls.' Reply, ECF No. 120). Plaintiffs contend that Corizon's objections will prevent it from receiving documents responsive to seven of the twelve requests for production from December 2014. (Pls.' Reply 1-2.)[1]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

HIPAA contains federal regulations that limit when a patient's medical information can be produced without the patient authorization. 45 C.F.R. § 164.512.[2] In addition, Pennsylvania law-specifically the MHPA-further limits when a patient's mental health medical records can be disclosed or produced without patient consent. 50 Pa. Con. Stat. Ann. § 7111. "The purpose of the MHPA is to further the policy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to seek to assure the availability of adequate treatment to persons ...


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