Monday, May 24, 2010

Supreme Court reviews whether records made in the ordinary course of a hospital's business are covered by the peer review privilege


This appeal involves the evidentiary privilege in the Tennessee Peer Review Law of 1967 [Tenn. Code Ann. section 63-6-219 (Supp. 2009)]. A former hospital employee filed suit in the Chancery Court for Bradley County against the hospital and an orthopaedic surgeon on the hospital's medical staff. During discovery, the former employee sought to depose the hospital's infection control director regarding the details of an investigation into postoperative nosocomial infections and her knowledge of whether the defendant surgeon had tested positive for infectious diseases. The hospital moved for a protective order on the ground that the requested information was privileged under Tenn. Code Ann. section 63-6-219(e).

The trial court declined to issue a protective order after determining that the information sought by the former employee was not privileged because it had been created in the regular course of the hospital's business and because the infection control director was the "original source" of the information. After granting the hospital an interlocutory appeal, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. Powell v. Cmty. Health Sys., Inc., No. E2008-00535-COA-R9-CV, 2009 WL 17850 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 2, 2009).

We granted the hospital's Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application for permission to appeal. We have determined that records received or made in the ordinary course of a hospital's business apart from the operation of a peer review committee are not protected by the peer review privilege in Tenn. Code Ann. section 63-6-219. We have also determined that documents prepared by or at the request of a peer review committee exercising its peer review function and documents prepared by third parties as part of the work of a peer review committee performing its peer review function are privileged. Finally, we have determined that the hospital did not waive its right to invoke the privilege in Tenn. Code Ann. section 63-6-219(e) with regard to the work performed by its infection control director in the context of a peer review proceeding.

Opinion may be found at:

WADE concurring

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