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Speaker Law

COA Publishes Prescription for Privacy

Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018

The Court of Appeals issued a published opinion addressing application of federal law (HIPAA) and state law of physician-patient privilege to discovery requests for non-party patient information. In Steiner v Bonanni, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant breached an employment contract by essentially stealing clients from plaintiff. To prove his case, the plaintiff requested discovery of defendant's current patient list. The defendant objected, claiming the list was covered under HIPAA and also protected by the physician-patient privilege. On appeal, the COA reasoned that Michigan Law is more protective of patients' privacy rights than HIPAA and, therfore, under HIPAA state law applies to discovery requests involving non-party patient information. Specifically, the COA noted that HIPAA allows disclosure of patient information upon notification to the patient, whereas, Michigan law precludes disclosure without actual patient consent. Consequently, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied plaintiff's discovery request. In this case the COA issued a prescription for patient privacy.

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