Sunday, May 3, 2009

Order Denying Discovery Quashed by Second DCA

On Friday, the Second DCA quashed the circuit court's order denying a motion to compel in Giacolone v. Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital Foundation, Inc. (2D08-4807).

The petitioner attempted to qualify for the hospital's charity program claiming he did not have any income. The hospital denied the request and billed the petitioner approximately $50,000 for his hospital visit.

The Second DCA described the facts as follows:
The primary claim on which Mr. Giacalone bases his defenses and counterclaims is that the charges for the supplies and services rendered to him by the Hospital were unreasonable. The information Mr. Giacalone sought by his motion to compel was broadly pertinent to the Hospital's charges and the discounts granted to the various categories of patients that it serves (e.g., self-pay patients, Medicare patients, Medicaid patients, charity care patients, and privately insured patients) and to the Hospital's internal cost structure. Mr. Giacalone argues that this information was not only relevant but critical to establish his defenses and counterclaims. We agree.
Citing to Payne v. Humana Hospital Orange Park, 661 So. 2d 1239 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995), the court held that a patient may not be held to unreasonable charges even if agreed to in a contract unless the contract specifically stated that prices. Therefore, the reasonableness of the prices is at issue in the action (Also noting that Colomar v. Mercy Hospital, Inc., 461 F. Supp. 2d 1265 (S.D. Fla. 2006) discusses how to determine reasonableness).

The Second DCA held that denying the discovery departs from the essential requirements of law. Further, the circuit court's form order was insufficient to deny relevant discovery requests as any such order needs to specifically identify the basis for the denial. Finally, on remand the circuit court must consider the hospital's trade secret claims prior to allowing the discovery.


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