Pena v. Orange County et al
ORDER granting 95 Motion to Seal medical record to be filed in support of Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Signed by Magistrate Judge Thomas B. Smith on 10/12/2016. (Smith, Thomas)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
LAURA ESPERANZA PENA,
Case No: 6:15-cv-69-Orl-18TBS
CHRISTOPHER MARCUS, OSVALDO
CRUZ, KRISTOPHER LOTT, MATTHEW
BUTLER, BRIAN BEALIEU, CHRIS
DELOTTE, ERIC SHELLENBERGER,
CHRISTOPHER WRZESIAN and JOHN
This case comes before the Court on Defendants’ Unopposed Motion to Seal
Plaintiff’s Medical Record and Documentation Referring to Same (Doc. 95). Defendants
wish to file an Orange County Fire Rescue Incident Report in support of their pending
motion for summary judgment (Id., ¶ 1). According to Defendants, the incident report is a
medical record concerning Plaintiff that is evidence to rebut his claim that he was
deprived of medical care (Id., ¶ 4). Defendants assert that a sealing order is necessary
because the incident report is private and confidential pursuant to the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et seq., and Florida state
HIPAA is intended to keep a person’s protected health information strictly
confidential. OPIS Management Resources, LLC v. Secretary, Florida Agency for Health
Care Admin., 713 F.3d 1291, 1293 (11th Cir. 2013). Protected health information includes
information maintained by a covered entity that can identify a person and relates to that
person’s health, the receipt of healthcare services by the person, or the past, present, or
future payment for healthcare services provided to the person. 45 C.F.R. § 164.514(b).
Covered entities include health care providers. 45 C.F.R. § 160.103. Protected health
information may be disclosed in judicial proceedings pursuant to court order. 45 C.F.R. §
164.512(e). The question is whether, if filed, the incident report should be maintained
under seal where it cannot be viewed by the public.
“The operations of the courts and the judicial conduct of judges are matters of
utmost public concern,’” Romero v. Drummond Co., Inc., 480 F.3d 1234, 1245 (11th Cir.
2007) (quoting Landmark Commc'ns, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829, 839 (1978)), “and
ʻ[t]he common-law right of access to judicial proceedings, an essential component of our
system of justice, is instrumental in securing the integrity of the process.’” Id. (quoting
Chicago Tribune Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1311 (11th Cir.
2001)). “Beyond establishing a general presumption that criminal and civil actions should
be conducted publicly, the common-law right of access includes the right to inspect and
copy public records and documents.” Chicago Tribune Co., 263 F.3d at 1311 (citing Nixon
v. Warner Commc’ns Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597 (1978)). “The common law right of access
may be overcome by a showing of good cause, which requires ‘balanc[ing] the asserted
right of access against the other party's interest in keeping the information confidential.’”
Romero, 480 F.3d at 1246 (quoting Chicago Tribune Co., 263 F.3d at 1309. In balancing
these interests “courts consider, among other factors, whether allowing access would
impair court functions or harm legitimate privacy interests, the degree of and likelihood of
injury if made public, the reliability of the information, whether there will be an opportunity
to respond to the information, whether the information concerns public officials or public
concerns, and the availability of a less onerous alternative to sealing the documents.” Id.
HIPAA recognizes and protects Plaintiff’s privacy interest in his personal
healthcare information. This privacy interest constitutes good cause to seal the incident
report in the record. Accordingly, the motion to seal is GRANTED. The Clerk shall
maintain the incident report UNDER SEAL until the conclusion of the case, including any
appeals, or further order of the Court, whichever occurs first.
DONE and ORDERED in Orlando, Florida on October 12, 2016.
Copies furnished to Counsel of Record
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