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Tep v. Southcoast Hospitals Group, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 4, 2014

BUNARITH TEP, Personal Representative of the Estate of Justine Tep, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHCOAST HOSPITALS GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' JOINT MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER (DOC. No. 63)

LEO T. SOROKIN, District Judge.

Bunarith Tep, a widower, has sued Southcoast Hospitals Group, Inc. ("Southcoast") and other defendants involved in his wife's emergency medical care at the time of her death. Count I of Tep's amended complaint alleges Southcoast violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 1395dd, which restricts when hospitals may transfer individuals presenting with emergency medical conditions. Doc. No. 20 at 5-7.[1] Counts II through IX assert state-law negligence claims against the remaining defendants. Id. at 7-13. Fact discovery is ongoing. Southcoast and two other defendants seek a protective order preventing disclosure of seven items responsive to Tep's document requests, but which the moving defendants claim are privileged. Doc. No. 63. Tep opposes the motion, arguing the privilege the defendants cite is inapplicable here. Doc. No. 96. For the reasons that follow, the motion is ALLOWED.

I. BACKGROUND

Tep's wife arrived at the emergency room at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts on August 9, 2011 complaining of shortness of breath and a cough. Doc. No. 81 at 2. Following some initial tests and assessments, plans were made to transfer Mrs. Tep to Tufts New England Medical Center, where her pulmonologist was located. Id . During the ambulance ride to Tufts, Mrs. Tep went into cardiac and respiratory arrest and subsequently died. Id.

During discovery, Tep served Southcoast with document requests seeking, among other things, "documents concerning the hospital's internal investigation pertaining to [Mrs. Tep]." Doc. No. 64-2 at 11. With its responses, Southcoast produced a short privilege log, in which it listed seven documents or categories of documents that it claims are privileged under Massachusetts law. See Doc. No. 64-3. The items included in the privilege log are:

1. Minutes from a meeting of Charlton's emergency department at which Mrs. Tep's case was reviewed by the physicians in attendance;
2. A "root cause" analysis by a separate group of Southcoast personnel who conducted an internal review of Mrs. Tep's case;
3. A flow chart created by the team performing the "root cause" analysis reflecting the major events that occurred from the time Mrs. Tep arrived at the hospital until she died hours later;
4. A short E-mail chain among risk management administrators for Southcoast regarding interactions with emergency transport teams and actions to be taken as a result of the review of Mrs. Tep's case;
5. Minutes from another emergency department meeting at Charlton that reflect a brief follow-up discussion of Mrs. Tep's case;
6. A safety report submitted by Southcoast to a state agency regarding Mrs. Tep's case and the related internal reviews; and
7. Credentialing files for hospital personnel involved in Mrs. Tep's case.

See id. These are the documents at issue in the pending motion.

After considering the parties' written submissions, the Court reviewed the first six categories of ...


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