McBride v. Houston County Health Care Authority et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that Plaintiff's 145 Motion to Compel Production of Personnel File of Defendant Dinesh Karumanchi and Deposition of Corporate Representative of Defendant Houston County Healthcare Authority be and is hereby DENIED as further set out in the opinion and order. Signed by Honorable Judge Terry F. Moorer on 9/15/2014. (dmn, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
HOUSTON COUNTY HEALTH CARE
AUTHORITY d/b/a Southeast
Alabama Medical Center, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:12cv1047-MHT-TFM
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Production of Personnel
File of Defendant Dinesh Karumanchi and Deposition of Corporate Representative of
Defendant Houston County Healthcare Authority (Doc. 145, filed July 14, 2014).
On July 14, 2014, Plaintiff Courtney McBride (“McBride” or “Plaintiff”) filed a
motion requesting that this Court compel the production of Defendant Dinesh Karumanchi,
M.D.’s (“Dr. Karumanchi”) personnel file. See Doc. 145 at 3. McBride asserts that she
believes there are three pieces of relevant information in Dr. Karumanchi’s personnel file:
1) information that is relevant to her negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention
claim against Houston County Healthcare Authority; 2) information on Dr. Karumanchi’s
treatment of McBride; and 3) information regarding Dr. Karumanchi’s separation from
employment with Houston County Healthcare Authority. Id.
Defendants contend that McBride has “not alleged specifically that SAMC
negligently hired, trained, supervised, or retained Dr. Karumanchi,” and that all that was
pled in her complaint was a claim against SAMC for “fail[ing] to hire, train, supervise, and
retain staff.” See Doc. 161 at 2. Defendants argue that § 6-5-551 of the Alabama
Medical Liability Act (“AMLA”) requires the complaint to contain a much more detailed
and fact specific allegation, and simply stating a claim for “staff” is too vague and does not
comply with the specificity required under the AMLA. See Doc. 161 at 2-3 (citing Ala.
Code § 6-5-551). 1
Additionally, Defendants argue that there is nothing in Dr.
Karumanchi’s personnel file that is relevant to the claims of this case, and the specific
information McBride seeks is readily obtainable through other avenues. See Doc. 161 at
2-4. Finally, Defendants argue that McBride is barred by Alabama and federal law from
reviewing any information that pertains to Dr. Karumanchi’s quality assurance
credentialing or similar reviews. See Doc. 161 at 5.
The discovery provision under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides in
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is
relevant to any party's claim or defense [ . . . ]. For good cause, the court
may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in
the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the
discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of
FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(1). Although the Middle District has held that there is a “strong
public policy against discovery of personnel files,” the court in Coker stated that the
For the purposes of this motion, the Court assumes arguendo that McBride has sufficiently pled a claim for the
negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention, and will address the underlying issues within the motion.
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discovery of a personnel file is permissible only if “(1) the material sought is clearly
relevant and (2) the need for discovery is compelling because the information sought is not
otherwise readily obtainable.” Coker v. Duke & Co., Inc., 177 F.R.D. 682, 685 (M.D. Ala.
1998) (quoting Cooperman v. One Bancorp, 134 F.R.D. 4 (D.Me.1991)).
On July 30, 2014 this Court held oral argument on the motion. See Doc. 176. In
the hearing, McBride stated that she seeks Dr. Karumanchi’s file for the purpose of
determining if any investigation was conducted or disciplinary action was taken due to Dr.
Karumanchi’s treatment of McBride; if there are records of Dr. Karumanchi attending any
training or continuing education courses related to Lamictal, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome,
or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis; and the basis of Dr. Karumanchi’s separation from
Southeast Alabama Medical Center (“SAMC”).
Although it is arguable that the information which McBride seeks is relevant under
the first prong set forth in Coker, the Court finds that McBride’s motion is due to be denied
because the information is either not discoverable, or fails to meet the second prong in
Coker. First, McBride seeks Dr. Karumanchi’s personnel file to determine if there was
any investigation or disciplinary action taken against him with regards to his treatment of
McBride. Under both Alabama and federal law, the information McBride currently seeks
is protected. See ALA. CODE § 6-5-333 (“The records and proceedings of any such [peer
review or a utilization and quality control committee or professional standards review
committee or a similar committee or a committee of similar purpose] shall be confidential
and shall be used by such committee and the members thereof only in the exercise of the
proper functions of the committee and shall not be public records nor be available for court
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subpoena or for discovery proceedings.”); and 42 U.S.C. 11101 (“There is an overriding
national need to provide incentive and protection for physicians engaging in effective
professional peer review.”). Thus, the Court finds that any information contained in Dr.
Karumanchi’s personnel file which relates to any investigation or disciplinary action is not
Next, McBride seeks Dr. Karumanchi’s personnel file to get information on any
training or continuing education courses he may have taken that are related to Lamictal,
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. The Court finds that this
information is clearly discoverable by less invasive means. First, if the plaintiff wishes to
seek information on the training or continuing education courses that Dr. Karumanchi
attended, there is nothing that has prevented her from requesting such information through
interrogatories or requests for production.
Previously, McBride propounded
interrogatories and requests for production seeking the names of all studies, papers,
treatises, text books, articles, etc., upon which Dr. Karumanchi has relied for his
knowledge on Lamictal. See Doc. 83 at 2-5. Nothing has prevented McBride from
similarly propounding an interrogatory or request for production relating to any training or
continuing education courses Dr. Karumanchi has attended.
deposed Dr. Karumanchi on September 18, 2013 which provided yet a second opportunity
for McBride to seek this information.
Thus, the Court finds that McBride cannot
overcome the second prong in Coker because the information she seeks is readily
obtainable by less invasive means.
Finally, McBride seeks Dr. Karumanchi’s personnel file to discover the basis for his
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separation from SAMC. The Court finds that this information is also clearly discoverable
by less invasive means, and in fact, was discussed in Dr. Karumanchi’s deposition. On
September 18, 2013, McBride deposed Dr. Karumanchi and specifically asked “[h]ow did
your employment come to an end with Southeast Alabama Medical Center?” See Doc.
160-2 at 4. Dr. Karumanchi responded that “[i]t came on good terms.” Id. McBride then
asked “[w]ell, did you resign, were you terminated? What was the nature of the departure?”
Id. Dr. Karumanchi responded that he resigned and took a different job, and after being
questioned further, he explained that his employment with SAMC was in an outpatient
setting, and his new employment with the Veterans Affairs Clinic is an inpatient setting
which no longer requires him to be on call week nights and weekends. Id. Thus, the
Court concludes that McBride received a full and fair answer to her questions. Her dislike
of the information provided does not provide the Court justification to compel Dr.
Karumanchi’s personnel file. Furthermore, McBride has failed to offer any evidence that
Dr. Karumanchi’s answers on the subject were in any way untruthful or untrustworthy.
Therefore, the Court finds that McBride cannot overcome the second prong in Coker
because the information she seeks is not only readily obtainable by less invasive means, but
has indeed already been obtained.
McBride moves this Court to compel Houston County Healthcare Authority “to
produce a corporate representative for deposition.” See Doc. 145 at 1. On April 3, 2014,
McBride served Defendants with a “Notice of Deposition of the Corporate Representative
of Defendant;” however, to date, Defendants have objected to the notice and failed to
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produce a corporate representative. Id.
Defendants argue that the request is “unduly and unreasonably duplicative of the
substantial discovery that Plaintiff has already undertaken regarding the hospital.” See
Doc. 161 at 6. Specifically, Defendants note that Houston County Healthcare Authority
has tendered eight employees for deposition (four emergency room nurses, a physician’s
assistant, two Behavioral Medical Unit nurses, and a hospitalist/physician), as well as the
three physicians who are named defendants for deposition. Id. Additionally, Defendants
have responded to multiple sets of interrogatories and requests for production.
Defendants aver that a substantial percentage of the topics attached to the notice of
deposition were covered at length in the eleven prior depositions and discovery requests.
See Doc. 161 at 6-7. Additionally, Defendants assert that McBride’s notice implicates
multiple units of the hospital. See Doc. 161 at 8. Specifically, during oral argument on
the motion, Defendants stated that McBride was admitted to SAMC five different times by
different departments. She also placed telephone calls into the call center. All of these
contacts with SAMC are implicated in McBride’s notice of deposition. Defendants assert
that as a result, to comply with McBride’s request, they would have to proffer
approximately five corporate representatives from various departments; none of which
would have any further information to offer than what has already been received through
past discovery; thus, making the information duplicative. See Doc. 161 at 8-9.
Upon the Court’s review of the Plaintiff’s motion, the Defendants’ response, and
oral argument on the motion, the Court agrees with Defendants. Prior to the filing of the
underlying motion, Plaintiff has conducted extensive discovery regarding the hospital, and
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Defendants have asserted in good faith that any knowledge the corporate representatives
may have would be duplicative of the discovery already obtained in this case. Requiring
the Defendants to produce multiple corporate representatives across multiple departments
would be unduly burdensome, especially in light of the parties’ prior difficulties with
scheduling depositions. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s motion is due to be denied.
Accordingly, upon consideration of the motions, for the reasons as stated, and for
good cause, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Production of Personnel
File of Defendant Dinesh Karumanchi and Deposition of Corporate Representative of
Defendant Houston County Healthcare Authority (Doc. 145) be and is hereby DENIED.
DONE this 15th day of September, 2014.
/s/Terry F. Moorer
TERRY F. MOORER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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