Branco v. Life Care Ctrs. of Am., Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28677 (D. Wash. 2006)

Plaintiff’s estate brought suit against Life Care’s Bothell facility after she slipped out of a shower chair, was injured and later died as a result of those injuries and other pre-existing conditions. Plaintiff sought copies of incident reports regarding falls, transfers and assists for the three years prior to Plaintiff’s fall that Defendant compiled pursuant to a statutory quality assurance program. Defendant sought a protective order barring their production arguing on three alternative grounds: (1) the incident reports were generated pursuant to a quality assurance program and are shielded from discovery under the statutorily-created discovery privilege in RCW 43.70.510(4); (2) the incident reports are not relevant; and (3) the request for the incident reports is unduly burdensome. The first ground was rejected because the privilege applies only where reports are produced for the sole purpose of healthcare evaluation and exclusively for the use of the quality assurance committee. The evidence suggested other uses for the reports including risk management and assessing the facility’s liability in a potential lawsuit. The record also showed that the insurer owned the incident reports and its ownership of them was fatal to the privilege. Defendant’s relevance objection was overruled because the reports might lead to the discovery of relevant evidence. They might also show that Defendant disregarded a known risk. The court was not convinced that the burden was so great that these highly relevant documents should be withheld. The court noted that Defendants had previously reviewed the incident reports on at least two occasions which tends to indicate that the burden is not significant. The motion for protective order was denied and the Defendant was ordered to produce three years of incident reports.

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