Sometimes in our trial practice, we have cases where we want the jury to be able to see how a patient who is not our client was treated by a healthcare provider. We don’t need the jury to know who the patient was, or any identifying information, just what kind of medical treatment they received.
The information could be very relevant. Suppose we represent a whistleblower who says that he was fired for reporting mist treatment of a patient. Or suppose we represent a victim of medical malpractice, who says the doctor has a history of making the same mistake over and over, and his employer has covered it up. In these cases, the way another patient was treated is essential to proving our claim. Defendants usually fight our request to get this information, citing privacy regulations.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has now settled this issue, by saying that the judge in the case can review the patient’s records and determine whether the jury ought to see them with identifying information removed. The case is Brewer v. Hunter, and can be read here. This case does not change the law in any way, but clarifies the law has always been. The law says that medical privacy laws do not just cover the plaintiff’s records, but all medical records.
This is an important step for plaintiffs claiming they were mistreated or the victims of malpractice.