Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Court Sets Scope of Discovery in Intoxication Exclusion Defense to Hospital's No-Fault Billing Action

Westchester Medical Center a/a/o Donald Gjelaj v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

(Sup. Ct., Nassau Co., decided 2/25/2009)

In October 2007, the Second Department modified Nassau Supreme's order to deny plaintiff's motion and State Farm's cross motion for summary judgment, holding that State Farm had not proven the assignor's intoxication as a matter of law.

The parties returned to Nassau County and proceeded with discovery.  State Farm served plaintiff hospital with document demands, interrogatories and a notice to depose the assignor.  When plaintiff didn't respond, State Farm to move to compel, and plaintiff cross-moved for a protective order limiting State Farm's Demand for Interrogatories and striking its Notice for Discovery and Inspection.  With respect to State Farm's notice to depose the assignor, plaintiff argued that the assignor was a non-party witness over whom the hospital had no control or any contact or communication after his discharge.

In granting some relief to each party,  Nassau County Justice William LaMarca:
  • ordered plaintiff to respond to State Farm's interrogatories that sought the names, addresses, telephone numbers and license numbers of those individuals who were involved in the patient's treatment or laboratory testing; 
  • struck State Farm's notice to depose the assignor based on the fact that it directed plaintiff to produce a person who was not an employee or agent of the hospital;
  • struck State Farm's document demands for HIPAA authorizations, police reports, MV104 forms, and copies of all criminal charging documents and court paper work, holding that many of the demanded documents were available to State Farm as public records; and
  • directed the hospital to provide responses to all demands for health service and treatment information pursuant to the authorization in the prescribed no-fault bill (Hospital Facility Form).

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