DeFrancesco v. Stamford Health [System] Inc.
A court may grant a hospital's request for a protective order, to shield documents that are protected by peer review. Allegedly, the defendant, Dr. Alon Aharon, failed to diagnose and treat Joseph DeFrancesco's aortic valve endocarditis, and that led to DeFrancesco's death. The plaintiff sued Dr. Aharon, Stamford Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York Presbyterian Hospital. The defendants objected to the plaintiff's request for production and argued that the plaintiff's request was intended to annoy, embarrass and oppress and that the documents are protected as a result of peer review or as personnel files, pursuant to C.G.S. §§19a-17b and 31-128f. In Babcock v. Bridgeport Hospital, a 1999 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that peer review applies to documents that "have their focus [on] the performance of any health care professional." The party that claims that peer review applies possesses the burden to prove that the document meets the criteria. The Superior Court found that Stamford Hospital's credentials committee acted as a "medical review committee" and engaged in "peer review," pursuant to C.G.S. §19a-17b(a)(2). The statute provides that "`[p]eer review' means the procedure for evaluation by health care professionals of the quality and efficiency of services ordered or performed by other health care professionals, including practice analysis, inpatient hospital and extended care facility utilization review, medical audit, ambulatory care review and claims review." The court conducted an in camera review and found that 12 documents were privileged as a result of peer review and 11 documents were not privileged. One of the items that was not protected by peer review was not admissible, because it was not relevant to Dr. Aharon's competence, diligence or adherence to standards of care or his skill, training and expertise. The court granted in part Stamford Hospital's motion for a protective order.