Sunday, March 14, 2010

Order Requiring Production From Non-Party Reversed For Entry Of Confidentiality Order

In Columbia Hospital (Palm Beaches) Limited Partnership v. Hasson (4D09-3988), the Fourth District reversed a trial court order requiring the production of documents by a non-party claimed to be privileged "to the extent that the trial court ordered production without first allowing the parties an opportunity to negotiate a confidentiality agreement."  The court stated:
The hospital also contends that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law in ordering production without balancing the interests....We conclude that Defendants sufficiently explained below why they needed the information: in order to dispute, as unreasonable, the amount of medical expenses that the plaintiff will seek to recover from them, if the hospital charges non-litigation patients a lower fee for the same medical services. A claimant for damages for bodily injuries has the burden of proving the reasonableness of his or her medical expenses.....The trial court’s findings, while brief, sufficed for this purpose.  However, the trial court also must take such protective measures as are required. § 90.506, Fla. Stat.
The court also included a footnote that stated:
As Defendants assert, a hospital’s cost to provide a service no longer bears much relationship to what it charges, but reimbursement rates from third party payors give hospitals an incentive to set their usual charges at an artificially high amount, from which discounts are negotiated; cost-shifting results in discriminatorily high charges to uninsured patients, in that every patient is billed at full charges, but only the uninsured are expected to pay those amounts; as a result, actual charges are not instructive on what is reasonable; instead, Defendants argue, a realistic amount is what hospitals are willing to accept.


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