People v. Covington

In People v. Covington, 19 P.3d 15 (Colo.2001) the victim's, not the defendant's physician-patient privilege was at issue. The police officer, who was in the emergency room and had requested photographs of the victim's injuries, was there for the purpose of doing investigative work. He was not present for the protection of medical personnel or to maintain custody over the patient. Nonetheless, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded that the doctor-patient privilege applied as to the photographs, stating, among other things, that "the record does not clarify whether the victim consented to the taking of the photographs," and that "although the victim was coherent, the record does not establish whether she even knew that the physican assistant took the photographs, let alone whether anyone asked permission to take the photographs. Therefore . . . the officer's possible presence in the emergency room does not waive the physician-patient privilege in this case." Covington, 19 P.3d at 20. The Covington Court also observed that while the presence of a third party would result in a waiver of the physician-patient privilege, when "the information . . . is readily discernable to everyone present," this was not the case there. Id. The Court, however, did ultimately find its state's reporting statute to be applicable, rendering the pertinent disclosure permissible, and the photographs admissible into evidence.