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Stumph v. Spring View Physician Practices, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

January 6, 2020

NICOLE STUMPH PLAINTIFF
v.
SPRING VIEW PHYSICIAN PRACTICES, LLC et al DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge

         The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, to have the undersigned Magistrate Judge determine all dispositive and non-dispositive matters in this case, with any appeal lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Docket # 14).

         Defendant Spring View Physician Practices, LLC, (“Spring View”) filed a Motion to Quash and Motion for Protective Order regarding Plaintiff Stumph's subpoena compelling the deposition of, a non-party, Mr. Jeffrey Baker and Defendant Kriegler's subpoena for Mr. Baker's medical records. (Docket # 26). Plaintiff Stumph responded (Docket # 29), as has Defendant Kriegler. (Docket # 31). Defendant Spring View replied to both responses (Docket # 33). This matter is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         For the reasons discussed below, Spring View's Motion to Quash and Motion for Protective Order (Docket # 26) is DENIED IN PART AND RESERVED IN PART. The Motion's request to quash the subpoena of Mr. Baker is DENIED. The Motion's request to quash the subpoena of Mr. Baker's medical records is RESERVED at this time. This Court will hear oral argument solely on the issue of whether to quash the subpoena for Mr. Baker's medical records. The deposition of Mr. Baker shall be held in abeyance until this Court issues its ruling on the subpoena for Mr. Baker's medical records.

         Background

         This matter arises from two alleged incidents of sexual misconduct by Defendant Samuel Kriegler, M.D., an employee of Spring View Urology, at Spring View's offices. Plaintiff Nicole Stumph alleges that she was the victim of unwanted sexual touching from Defendant Kriegler during her patient visits with Defendant Kriegler. (Docket #1-2 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kriegler “touched the private areas, buttocks, and breasts of the Plaintiff” during her patient visits on January 18, 2018, and January 24, 2018, and that “such touching was offensive and unwarranted.” (Id.). Plaintiff also asserts claims against Defendant Spring View for negligent selection, retention, supervision, and training of Defendant Kriegler, resulting in Defendant Kriegler's actions while functioning as its agent/employee. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff brings claims of battery (Counts I & II), outrage (Count III), negligence (Count IV), and for punitive damages (Count V) against Defendant Kriegler. (Id.). On January 18, 2019, Defendant Kriegler removed the case from the Marion Circuit Court. (Docket # 1).

         On September 18, 2019, Plaintiff issued a subpoena to Mr. Jeffrey Baker, a non-party to this litigation, seeking to take his deposition on October 10, 2019. (Docket # 29 at 1). Defendant Kriegler then issued a subpoena to Spring View Urology and Spring View Hospital for Mr. Baker's medical records. (Id.; Docket # 26 at 2-3). Mr. Baker is a non-party to this litigation, who, according to Plaintiff, contacted Plaintiff's counsel and offered to testify against the Defendants. (Docket # 29 at 2). Plaintiff represents that Mr. Baker has a similar account of “appalling, unwanted sexual touching by Defendant Kriegler at the time Defendant Kriegler was an employee of Spring View.” (Id.).

         Legal Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure give parties the right to “obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevance for discovery purposes is broad. Lewis v. ACB Bus. Servs., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). However, “district courts have discretion to limit the scope of discovery where the information sought is overly broad or would prove unduly burdensome to produce.” Surles ex rel. Johnson v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007). The determination of “the scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Cooper v. Bower, No. 5:15-CV-249-TBR, 2018 WL 663002 at *1 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 29, 2018), reconsideration denied, 2018 WL 1456940 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 22, 2018) (quoting Chrysler Corp. v. Fedders Corp., 643 F.2d 1229, 1240 (6th Cir. 1981)).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45 allows parties to command a nonparty to, inter alia, appear at a certain time and place to testify or produce documents. Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(a)(1)(A)(iii). Rule 45 further provides that the issuing court “must quash or modify a subpoena that: . . . requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies; or subjects a person to undue burden.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3)(A)(iii), (iv). Although irrelevance or overbreadth are not specifically listed under Rule 45 as a basis for quashing a subpoena, courts “have held that the scope of discovery under a subpoena is the same as the scope of discovery under Rule 26.” Hendricks v. Total Quality Logistics, 275 F.R.D. 251, 253 (S.D. Ohio 2011).

         In striking the balance between a party's need for discovery and a non-party's interest in protecting confidential information, courts apply a three-pronged test. First, the Court considers whether the entity seeking protection has shown that the information sought is proprietary and that its disclosure might be harmful. If the answer to these questions is yes, the second prong asks whether the party seeking the discovery has established that the information is relevant and necessary to the underlying action. Medical Ctr. at Elizabeth Place, LLC v. Premier Health Partners, 294 F.R.D. 87, 92 (S.D. Ohio 2013) (citing Spartanburg Reg. Healthcare Sys. V. Hillenbrand Indus., No. 1:05mc107, 2005 WL 2045818, at *4 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 24, 2005). If the answer to these two questions is yes, the third prong asks the Court to balance the need for discovery of the information with the harm that would result from disclosure. “Where, as here, discovery is sought from a non-party, the Court should be particularly sensitive to weighing the probative value of the information sought against the burden of production on the non-party.” Id. (citing Universal Delaware v. Comidata Network, No. 3:10mc104, 2011 WL 1085180, at *2-3 (M.D. Tenn. Mar. 21, 2011).[1]

         Analysis

         Defendant Spring View asserts two main arguments in its Motion to quash the subpoenas for Mr. Baker's deposition and for Mr. Baker's medical records. First, Spring View argues that Mr. Baker would not possess any information relevant to Plaintiff's interactions with Defendant Kriegler. (Docket # 26 at 4-5). Second, Spring View argues that Mr. Baker's medical information and records are protected from disclosure by HIPAA.[2] (Id. at 5). Absent any waiver of HIPAA's privilege protections by Mr. Baker, Spring View argues it is statutorily prohibited from releasing Mr. Baker's medical records.

         Defendant Kriegler joins Spring View's Motion to the extent it requests this Court quash the subpoena seeking Mr. Baker's deposition. (Docket # 31 at 1). If the Court allows Mr. Baker's deposition to proceed, Defendant Kriegler then asserts that Defendant Spring View's Motion to quash Defendant Kriegler's subpoena for Mr. Baker's medical records should be denied. (Id. at 2). Defendant Kriegler argues that Mr. Baker's medical records are not privileged under HIPAA and should be produced because Defendant Kriegler, through counsel, followed HIPAA's proscribed procedure for obtaining Mr. Baker's records through subpoena as set forth in 45 C.F.R. § 164.512 and Mr. Baker did not object to said subpoena. (Id. at 2-3). Alternatively, Defendant Kriegler ...


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