Health care provider ordered to hand over some documents in case alleging inhumane conditions at detention center

By Charmaine Little | Nov 30, 2018

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, denied in part and granted in part a man’s request for a subpoena for documents that could prove the City of St. Louis was maintaining inhumane conditions at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution (MSI).

James Cody and others in his situation sued the city with claims of “various dangerous, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions inside the [MSI],” according to the Oct. 31 opinion.

Each of the plaintiffs were detained at MSI at some point in 2017, and said that they, along with others being held there, suffered for a lack of proper ventilation, extreme temperatures, rodent and insect infestation, overflowing sewage, mold, insufficient health care, overcrowding, a lack of proper staffing, violence, and retaliation from the MSI workers.

As part of their lawsuit, the plaintiffs distributed a subpoena to Corizon Health, who was the health care and treatment provider for the detainees, requesting papers connected to the health care and treatment that the detainees experienced while at MSI.

Corizon objected to the subpoena, saying the documents were confidential and protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Corizon requested the details be quashed via Rule 45, which calls for a subpoena to be quashed if it requests disclosure of a protected concern, as long as a waiver isn’t present.

The court only partially agreed. HIPAA permits the disclosure of certain confidential medical information under a court’s protective order, the court said, adding that there was no request to compel testimony, and medical records would be redacted to protect patients' privacy.

Corizon also made an undue burden challenge, according to the ruling. The plaintiffs had requested a year's worth of documents, and the court noted that "[a]t an average of 710 detainees a month, over a twelve-month period, such record review could require a significant time and expense for non-party Corizon."

Nevertheless, the court said that Corizon was the only entity who could provide this information.

Regarding the plaintiffs’ request for all medication administration records and/or practitioner’s orders with the prescriptions and medication given, the court determined that this was too much of a burden for Corizon and said the plaintiffs should adjust this request to align with the other documents requested.

U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig ruled on the case.

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Corizon Health Inc. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

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