The plaintiff in this negligence suit against Shands Teaching Hospital in Florida was visiting a patient when she slipped and fell on some clear liquid while walking through a hallway. As part of her lawsuit seeking damages from her injury, she sought to discover an "investigative report" that was prepared by the hospital as a result of her fall.
In response to a motion to compel disclosure of the report, the hospital argued that the report was placed in the hospital's patient safety evaluation system, and "prepared solely for submission to [a] patient safety organization" and was in fact submitted. Therefore the report was privileged and not discoverable under the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA).
The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion ruling that PSQIA only applies to patients and not incidents involving staff or visitors. The hospital filed a petition for certiorari which was granted by the Florida First District Court of Appeal.
In the reversing of the trial court's decision, the Appellate Court pointed to an "uncontradicted affidavit" from the hospital "certifying that the subject report was assembled for reporting to a patient safety organization under the Act and that the report was in fact submitted" utilizing the confidential reporting pathway as set forth under PSQIA.
The Court also agreed with the hospital's argument that efforts to improve conditions which can cause slip and fall injuries meets a requirement under PSQIA that the report "could result in improved patient safety, health care quality, or health care outcomes." Because these safety efforts apply to all persons, including patients, visitors and employees, the Court stated it did not matter that the plaintiff was not a patient at the time.
Because PSQIA was not limited to reports which only involved patients, the Court held that the disputed report was privileged and that the trial court's order requiring disclosure of the report be quashed. Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. v. Beylotte, No.1D22-1277 (March 8, 2023) (see copy of court's decision)
It should be noted that the First District Appellate Court has regularly upheld the privilege protections under PSQIA. It's previous decision in Charles v. Southern Baptist Hosp. of Florida, Inc., was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court in a widely criticized decision. Most recently, the Appellate Court again upheld the PSQIA privilege protections involving a "Safety Event Report" prepared by Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in a medical malpractice action. The decision, Tallahassee v. Wiles, has been certified because it raises "questions of great public importance to the Florida Supreme Court."
For those of you who may be interested, I recently presented a three-part webinar on various topics involving the Patient Safety Act which included a review of key terms, court decisions, best practices in developing patient safety evaluation system policies and in defending against discovery demands for privileged patient safety work product. On the presentation website, you can find records, power point slides, Q&As and other resource information. Click here to view.