Copying Medical Records Without Charge in New York

In Carter v. County of Erie (255 A.D.2d 984, 680 N.Y.S.2d 768 [4th Dept 1998]), the court held that while a person granted poor person status "is entitled to those benefits conferred by CPLR 1102, including copies of transcripts of hearings and trials at government expense. . . . The [lower] court properly rejected the contention of plaintiff that Erie County must bear the cost of deposition transcripts provided to her and must pay her expert witness fees and similar extraordinary expenses" (Carter, 255 A.D.2d at 985). Inspection and copying of medical records without charge is not a benefit expressly conferred by CPLR 1102. On the other hand, the Court recognizes that the Appellate Division, Third Department has recently stated that "DOCS' policy imposing the inspection and copy fees makes clear that an inmate has a right of access to view and/or obtain a copy of his or her health record and that access shall not be denied solely because of the inability to pay" (Matter of Pratt v. Goord, 20 A.D.3d 827, 827-828, 799 N.Y.S.2d 611 [3d Dept 2005]). The Pratt decision, however, further points out that "the provisions of Public Health Law 18 govern any effort by petitioner to inspect or copy his medical records. . . . Public Health Law 18(2)(e) expressly states that a provider may impose a reasonable charge for all inspections and copies, not exceeding the actual costs incurred" (Pratt, 20 A.D.3d at 828). Finally, the Court notes that in Matter of Dawes v. Selsky (286 A.D.2d 806, 730 N.Y.S.2d 563 [3d Dept 2001]), there is reference to a Department of Correctional Services practice by which an indigent inmate may "sign a form which would encumber his inmate account for the cost of the copies of his records, a condition which is not inconsistent with Public Health Law 18(2)(e)" (Dawes, 286 A.D.2d at 807).