Virga v. Arnold Shapiro Productions Inc et al
ORDER AND OPINION granting 36 Motion to Compel HIPAA-Compliant Release Forms. Plaintiff is required to provide the authorized HIPAA forms relevant to this order by January 31, 2017. The court DENIES without prejudice Defendant's request for reasonable costs and attorney's fees associated with this motion. Signed by Honorable J Michelle Childs on 1/18/2017.(asni, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Arnold Shapiro Productions, Inc., A&E
Television Networks, LLC, Richland
County, and Leon Lott, in his individual
Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-04323-JMC
ORDER AND OPINION
Plaintiff Joseph Virga filed an action against Defendants Arnold Shapiro Products, Inc.,
A&E Television Networks, LLC, Richland County, and Leon Lott (collectively “Defendants”),
seeking recovery of damages for injuries he suffered when he participated in the “Beyond Scared
Straight” television program, which was filmed at a Richland County jail. (ECF No. 1 at 1.) 1
This matter is before the court pursuant to Defendants’ Motion to Compel HIPAA (“Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996”)-Compliant Release Forms against
Plaintiff. (ECF No. 36.)
For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Compel
HIPAA-Compliant Release Forms (ECF No. 36).
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On October 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that (1) Plaintiff suffered injuries
as a direct result of the negligence and gross negligence of Defendant A&E and Defendant Shapiro
The court notes that “Beyond Scared Straight” is a television program that follows people,
typically teenagers, who enroll in programs that aim to deter criminal behavior by exposing the
enrollees to the consequences of criminal behavior through jailhouse visits.
and (2) the acts and omissions by all Defendants violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. (ECF
No. 1 at 4-5 ¶¶ 22, 26 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983).) Plaintiff claims that he was “forced to undergo
strenuous activity, was physically neglected, and was inadequately nourished and hydrated
[causing] life-threatening injuries including rhabdomyolysis and acute renal injury caused by
overexertion and dehydration.” (ECF No. 1 at 1 ¶ 2.)
On August 18, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Discovery Responses (ECF No.
30), which this court denied in a text order on September 21, 2016, because Defendants’ Motion
was untimely. (ECF No. 34.)
On December 6, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Production of HIPAACompliant Release Forms claiming “Plaintiff has put his physical and mental health at issue in this
lawsuit, and thus, Defendants are entitled to gain access to Plaintiff’s medical records.” (ECF No.
36 at 3 ¶ 11.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The amended Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 26 provides that “[p]arties may obtain discovery
regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional
to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount
in controversy, the parties’ relative access to the relevant information, the parties’ resources, the
importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the
proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need
not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The scope of discovery
permitted by Rule 26 is designed to provide a party with information reasonably necessary to
afford a fair opportunity to develop its case. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, P.A. v. Murray
Sheet Metal Co., Inc., 967 F.2d 980, 983 (4th Cir. 1992).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(3) requires that each interrogatory, to the extent there is no objection,
must be answered separately and fully in writing under oath. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1)(A) permits a
party to serve upon any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b) to produce and permit
the requesting party to inspect, copy, test, or sample any designated tangible things. Fed. R. Civ.
P. 34(b)(2)(B) requires that for each item or category, the response must either state that inspection
and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for
objecting to the requests, including the reasons.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 states, “[o]n notice to other parties and all affected persons, a party may
move for an order compelling disclosure or discovery. The motion must include a certification that
the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to
make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1).
“For purposes of [Rule 37(a)], an evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be
treated as a failure to disclose, answer, or respond.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(4). Specifically, a party
“may move for an order compelling an answer, designation, production, or inspection.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B). Broad discretion is given to a district court’s decision to grant or deny a motion
to compel. See, e.g., Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., v. Alpha of Va., Inc., 43 F.3d 922, 929
(4th Cir. 1995).
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s medical records must be disclosed in discovery because
“Plaintiff has put his physical and mental health at issue in this lawsuit.” (ECF No. 36 at 3.)
Defendant claims that Plaintiff has not adequately responded to requests for forms that are
compliant with HIPAA privacy rules. (ECF No. 36 at 2.) As such, Defendant urges this court to
grant the instant motion because “courts in the Fourth Circuit have routinely granted a defendant’s
request for plaintiff to produce signed HIPAA-compliant release forms.” (ECF No. 36 at 3 (citing
Jimoh v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Hous. P’ship, Inc. No. 3:08-CV-495-RJC-DCK, 2009 WL
4062881 (W.D.N.C. Nov. 20, 2009) (granting the defendant’s motion to compel HIPAA-compliant
authorization because the requested documents fell within a reasonable time frame and the plaintiff
did not show the requests to be overbroad or objectionable)).) 2 The court observes that, in addition
to the settled legal precedent, Defendants’ Motion to Compel is unopposed by Plaintiff. Therefore,
the court determines that Defendants are entitled to Plaintiff’s medical records.
For the reasons above, the court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Compel HIPAACompliant Release Forms (ECF No. 36). Plaintiff is required to provide the authorized HIPAA
forms relevant to this order by January 31, 2017. The court DENIES without prejudice
Defendant’s request for reasonable costs and attorney’s fees associated with this motion.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
January 18, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
Defendants cite additional cases of courts in the Fourth Circuit granting requests for production
of HIPAA-compliant release forms. See Shoemake v. Eli Lilly & Co., No. 5:13-CV-013-RLVDCK, 2014 WL 683765 (W.D.N.C. Feb. 20, 2014); see also Teague v. Target Corp., No. 306-CV191, 2006 WL 3690642, at *2 (W.D.N.C. Dec. 11, 2006); see generally Coffin v. Bridges, No. 951781, 1995 WL 729489, *3 (4th Cir. Dec. 11, 1995).
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