PSO Case Law: Morgan v. Community Medical Center Healthcare System

Summary and comment provided by Center for Patient Safety Project Manager, Kathy Wire, JD, MBA, CPHRM

Morgan v. Community Medical Center Healthcare System (Pennsylvania, No. 2008-CV-4859 (Lackawanna Co. June 14, 2011)

Protection Requires the Confidentiality of Patient Safety Work Product

A Pennsylvania trial court has ruled that materials developed and used outside a Patient Safety Evaluation cannot be protected Patient Safety Work Product.[i] As reported at the AHRQ annual PSO meeting in 2012, the case involved a malpractice suit filed against a hospital claiming that it negligently discharged the plaintiff from the emergency room. Plaintiff obtained a trial court order for the hospital to produce an incident report regarding the event. The hospital appealed.

Hospital argued that the incident report was privileged and not subject to discovery under both its state confidentiality statute and the PSQIA. With respect to the state statute, as is true in many states, the protection only applies if the hospital meets its burden of establishing that the report was solely prepared for the purpose of complying with the Pennsylvania Safety Act. The court agreed with the plaintiff, that the report could have been prepared principally for other purposes and held that it was not protected by the state statute.

With respect to the PSQIA, the court applied a similar analysis was the incident report collected, maintained or developed separately or does it exist separately from a Patient Safety Evaluation System (PSES)? If so, even if reported to a PSO, it is not protected. The court determined that hospital had not met its burden of establishing that the report “was prepared solely for reporting to a patient safety organization and not also for another purpose.”

Comment: The PSQIA allows for broader protection that this opinion reflects, but apparently the hospital did not or could not argue that the report was prepared inside the PSES. If it reflected the deliberations and analysis of a component of the PSES, it doesn’t need to be reported to receive protection.

[i] Morgan v. Community Medical Center Healthcare System (Pennsylvania, No. 2008-CV-4859 (Lackawanna Co. June 14, 2011)


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