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Hay v. Somerset Area School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 11, 2017

HEATHER HAY, Plaintiff,
v.
SOMERSET AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court are two motions to compel, both filed by Defendant Somerset Area School District ("SASD"): (1) a Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Sign Unaltered Medical Authorizations (ECF No. 58) and (2) a Motion to Compel Stipulation of Confidentiality and to Compel the Return of Inadvertently Produced Un-Redacted Documents. (ECF No. 60). The motions have been fully briefed (see, respectively, ECF Nos. 59 and 63, and ECF Nos. 61 and 65) and are ripe for disposition.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT in PART and DENY in PART SASD's a Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Sign Unaltered Medical Authorizations. (ECF No. 58.). The Court will DENY SASD's Motion to Compel Stipulation of Confidentiality and to Compel the Return of Inadvertently Produced Un-Redacted Documents. (ECF No. 60.)

         II. Jurisdiction

         This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. §1391.

         III. Background

         Plaintiff sues SASD for injuries she allegedly sustained while a student at SASD as a result of sexual harassment and sexual assault perpetrated by a SASD teacher. Currently before the Court are two discovery disputes. The Court will discuss them in turn.

         IV. Discussion

         A. SASD's Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Sign Unaltered Medical Authorizations

         The first dispute concerns SASD's attempts to obtain Plaintiff's medical records. Plaintiff claims that she suffered weight loss, depression, and anorexia as a result of the sexual assault and sexual harassment she experienced at SASD. (ECF No. 1 at 10-12). Plaintiff sought outpatient and inpatient treatment for these symptoms from Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic ("WPIC") in 2003. (Id. at 11.) SASD seeks Plaintiff's medical records to ascertain the causes and severity of the physical symptoms and mental anguish that Plaintiff allegedly suffered. (ECF No. 59 at. 4-5.)

         SASD sent authorizations to Plaintiff that would allow SASD to access "information" and, more specifically, "health information" about Plaintiff from WIPC, Childfind and Abuse Registry, Children & Youth Services, Somerset Pediatrics Group, and Ms. Karen Franz, LSW, a therapist who treated Plaintiff.[1] (ECF No. 58 at 2.) Upon receiving the authorization forms, Plaintiff's counsel replaced the term "information" with "records only."[2] (ECF No. 63-4 at 3.)

         SASD contends that Plaintiff's replacing the term "information" with "records only" improperly limits the scope of discovery that SASD is entitled to in this case. SASD asserts that it is entitled to all of the records it seeks because Plaintiff has put her health and mental health at issue. (ECF No. 59 at 4-6.) SASD asserts that Plaintiff's treaters might interpret "records only" narrowly to include only "formal medical records/' thus excluding documents that SASD is entitled to, such as therapist's notes and handwritten or typed notes and memoranda that were not inserted into formal medical record forms. (ECF No. 58 at 3-4.)

         Plaintiff does not contest that Plaintiff's medical history and mental health are at issue and that SASD is entitled to Plaintiff's medical records. Rather, Plaintiff responds that the releases as originally written gave SASD a "carte blanche" to have ex parte communications with Plaintiff's treaters. (ECF No. 63 at 2, 6.) Plaintiff states that it narrowed the scope of the release by changing the wording to "records only" to prevent SASD from engaging in ex parte communications with the medical and mental health professionals who treated Plaintiff. (Id. at 2.) In response to Plaintiff's concern, SASD contends that the standard authorization forms that SASD sent to Plaintiff do not authorize SASD to have ex parte communications with Plaintiff's treaters. (ECF No. 59 at 6.) SASD further asserts that it repeatedly assured Plaintiff that it would not engage in ex parte communications with Plaintiff's treaters. (Id.) However, SASD's assurances failed to assuage Plaintiff, who "stands by her ...


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