Humana Hospital Desert Valley v. Superior Court

In Humana Hospital Desert Valley v. Superior Court, 154 Ariz. 396, 742 P.2d 1382 (Ct. App. 1987), Humana Hospital was sued for negligent supervision of one of its physicians. The plaintiff, Marily Edison, sought discovery of the physician's application for staff privileges and any records reflecting the hospital's investigation into his application for staff privileges. The hospital objected to producing these documents, maintaining that Arizona's peer-review privilege protected files of its credentials committee. The trial court denied Humana and the defendant physician's motion to quash discovery of the hospital peer-review documents; Humana and the defendant physician appealed. On appeal, Edison argued that preventing discovery of the hospital peer-review documents would effectively abrogate her claim for negligent supervision, in violation of her rights under the Arizona Constitution. The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Edison's argument, stating: "In the underlying action, Edison is suing Humana for negligently allowing Dr. Blumberg to practice on its staff and for negligently supervising Dr. Blumberg. To prove a negligent supervision theory, a plaintiff must establish that the hospital knew or should have known that a physician was not competent to provide certain care and that the hospital's failure to supervise the physician caused injury to the plaintiff. Tucson Med. Center v. Misevch, 113 Ariz. 34, 36, 545 P.2d 958, 960 (1976). "Contrary to her assertion, Edison is left with ample alternatives to prove her negligent supervision theory against Humana without obtaining access to privileged information. Information which originated outside the peer review process is not subject to the privilege and, if otherwise admissible, could be used to prove Edison's case. Shelton v. Morehead Mem. Hosp., 318 N.C. 76, 347 S.E.2d 824 (1986). In Shelton, the court held that information which is available from original sources is not immune from discovery or use at trial merely because it was used by a medical review committee. See also Jenkins v. Wu, 102 Ill. 2d 468, 82 Ill. Dec. 382, 468 N.E.2d 1162 (1984); Good Samaritan Hosp. Ass'n v. Simon, 370 So. 2d 1174 (Fla. App. 1979). Such original sources include court records about previous malpractice claims and administrative records or testimony about a physician's education and training. "A plaintiff can also discover a hospital's general credentialing or review procedure policies. A.R.S. 36-445.01(B) provides that representatives of a hospital may testify whether peer review was conducted with regard to the subject matter being litigated. A plaintiff also has access to medical records available pursuant to a patient's consent. Finally, a plaintiff can retain experts to give opinions regarding all of the above matters. Edison apparently found an expert who has expressed opinions in support of her claims. Therefore, neither the Act nor our holding today bars a malpractice plaintiff from proving a negligent supervision claim against a hospital. "Moreover, if this court were to eliminate the peer review privilege, it would negate an important state interest. See Morse v. Gerity, 520 F. Supp. 470, 472 (D. Conn. 1981). Arizona courts have recognized that the confidentiality of peer review committee proceedings is essential to achieve complete investigation and review of medical care. ... "These important policy considerations mandate our protection of the peer review privilege. Because plaintiff is not deprived of her ability to bring a negligent supervision action, and because of the overriding public interest in candid professional peer review, we hold that the peer review act merely regulates a plaintiff's claim against a hospital for negligent supervision, and does not violate Ariz. Const. Art. 18 6." (154 Ariz. at 400, 742 P.2d at 1386.)