Anoka County District Court File No. CX0311280.
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
A law firm engaged in defending a client against a negligence action in which the plaintiff puts her medical condition in controversy does not violate Minn. Stat. § 144.335, subd. 3a (a) (2002), by allowing its retained Rule 35 examiner to inspect plaintiff's medical records that were obtained by law firm from medical providers pursuant to plaintiff's authorizations allowing the release of the medical records to law firm, its representatives, and employees.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge
Appellant Amanda R. Newman, who was a plaintiff in a personal-injury action against a client of respondent Brendel & Zinn, Ltd. (law firm), alleges that law firm violated Minn. Stat. § 144.335, subd. 3a (a) (2002), by sharing her medical records obtained under Rule 35 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure with the physician retained by law firm to inspect the records and conduct a medical examination of appellant. The district court dismissed appellant's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Because we conclude that Rule 35 specifically authorized, and appellant consented to, law firm's sharing of the subject medical records with the Rule 35 examiner, we affirm.
Appellant was injured in an automobile accident and sued the driver of the other-involved automobile for negligence. Respondent law firm was retained to represent the defendant in appellant's negligence action. Under Minn. R. Civ. P. 35.04, appellant authorized thirteen providers to release medical records pertaining to "treatment for neck pain, low back pain, headaches or TMJ" and "any treatment for November 12, 1998 motor vehicle accident injuries" to law firm, "its representatives or employees." The authorization stated, "I do not authorize re-release of this information by/to a third party."
Law firm obtained appellant's medical records pursuant to appellant's authorizations and provided the records to a physician it had retained for the defense. This Rule 35 examiner testified in appellant's negligence trial, and law firm argued that this expert witness was the most qualified to discuss appellant's claimed injuries because he was the only doctor who had reviewed all of appellant's medical records.
Appellant initiated this action alleging that by "re-releasing" her medical records to its Rule 35 examiner and referring to the records during her negligence trial, law firm willfully or intentionally violated Minn. Stat. § 144.335, subd. 3a (a) (2002), which prohibits a person who receives health records from a provider from releasing those records "to a person without a signed and dated consent from the patient . . . unless the release is specifically authorized by law." The district court granted law firm's motion to dismiss appellant's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e). This appeal followed.
I. Should law firm's motion to strike documents in appellant's appendix be granted?
II. Did the district court err by dismissing, for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, appellant's claim that law firm violated Minn. Stat. § 144.335, subd. 3a (a) (2002), by giving appellant's medical records, obtained from medical providers ...