An interesting discovery case involving the right to obtain alcohol treatment records

Once a month, the Fourth Department usually barrages us with about 100 or so decisions.  The hard part is sifting through them quickly enough and finding the ones that are worth posting.  The next few posts will be from the Appellate Department that specializes in short opinions, the use of the “memorandum” and which always fails to award a bill of costs to the prevailing party on appeal.

L.T. v Teva Pharms. Usa, Inc., 2010 NY Slip Op 02201 (4th Dept. 2010)

This case is interesting because it explicitly allows certain discovery if medical texts or journals support the medical proposition that the defendant is espousing.  Here are the pertinent parts of the opinion:

“Plaintiff suffers from tardive dyskinesia (TD) and alleges that it was caused by her use of defendant’s medication to treat her gastroesophageal disease. All of the articles submitted by defendant link alcohol abuse or dependency to TD only for psychiatric patients who are concomitantly using antipsychotic or neuroleptic medications. The record contains no evidence that plaintiff ever used such medication or, indeed, that she ever suffered from a psychiatric condition, and thus defendant failed to establish a link between plaintiff’s alleged alcohol abuse or dependency in the 1990s and plaintiff’s having developed TD in 2007 (cf. Napoleoni v Union Hosp. of Bronx, 207 AD2d 660; see generally Manley v New York City Housing Auth., 190 AD2d 600, 600-601).

Defendant contends that antipsychotic medications are sometimes used to treat alcoholics suffering from withdrawal and thus that discovery is warranted because it is possible that plaintiff was prescribed such antipsychotic medications while being treated for her alcohol use. That contention is not properly before us, however, because it is raised for the first time on appeal (see generally CPLR 5501 [a]; Ciesinski v Town of Aurora, 202 AD2d 984, 985). In any event, the record contains no evidence that plaintiff was ever prescribed such medication and thus does not support defendant’s contention.

While the record does not justify the disclosure of the confidential alcohol treatment records, we agree with defendant that it should be allowed to provide expert witness affidavits and/or “medical texts and journals” establishing a link between alcohol abuse and the development of TD where the person suffering from TD was not a psychiatric patient being treated with antipsychotic or neuroleptic medication (Green v City of New York, 281 AD2d 193, 193). We thus conclude at this juncture that the court properly denied plaintiff’s cross motion for a protective order, and we modify the order by denying defendant’s motion without prejudice and vacating the directive that plaintiff provide defendant with HIPAA compliant authorizations permitting release of her alcohol treatment records.”