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Florida Second DCA rules in medical negligence case that documents used in defendant hospital’s credentialing process of allegedly negligent doctor were privileged despite their alleged relevance to plaintiff’s negligent credentialing claim

On December 11, 2019, in Tarpon Springs Hospital Foundation v. White, No. 2D19-603, the Florida Second DCA granted the certiorari petition of the defendant hospital in a medical negligence case and quashed a trial court order requiring the hospital to disclose records collected by the hospital during the credentialing process for an allegedly negligent doctor. Section 395.0191(8), Florida Statutes, prohibits the discovery of "investigations, proceedings, and records" of a hospital board "in any civil action against a provider of professional health services arising out of matters which are the subject of evaluation and review by such board." The Second DCA ruled that this statute shielded the records from review even though at least some of the specific records sought by the plaintiff, pertaining to instances in which the doctor become board eligible by the American Board of Internal Medicine, were not created by the hospital. The Second DCA acknowledged that § 395.0191(8) specifically provides that documents created by outside sources are not shielded from discovery by their use in credentialing proceedings but interpreted this provision as allowing parties to obtain such documents from their original sources. The Second DCA also opined that Amendment 7 to the Florida Constitution, which allows discovery of records concerning adverse medical incidents, does not apply to documents that contain "general credentialing information unrelated to an adverse medical incident." The Court cited Morton Plant Hosp. Ass'n, Inc. v. Shahbas ex rel. Shahbas, 960 So. 2d 820, 827 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007) (holding that a discovery request to a hospital under Amendment 7 for all documents relating to the credentialing of one of its physicians was overbroad because the request included documents unrelated to "particular adverse medical incidents"), and W. Florida Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc. v. See, 18 So. 3d 676, 690 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009) (holding that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by ordering a hospital to produce documents relating to two physicians' training, where such documents did not relate to an adverse medical incident within the meaning of Amendment 7), and Bartow HMA, LLC v. Kirkland, 171 So. 3d 783, 785 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015).