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Third Party investigations are not protected from discovery under Pennsylvania’s Peer Review Protection Act

CASE: Yocabet v. UPMC Presbyterian REFERENCE: 119 A.3d 1012 (Pa. Super. 2015) CASE LOCATION: Allegheny Co., PA.

It this case, UPMC negligently transplanted a hepatitis C infected kidney into a transplant recipient.

Following this incident, UPMC’s transplant program was shut down and investigated by numerous third party entities which resulted in numerous citations, sanctions, and disciplinary actions. Therefore, in discovery, Plaintiffs requested UPMC to produce documents and other information related to the third party investigations. These third party investigation documents were significant because we were trying to prove that UPMC’s attempted narrative – that this is a simple isolated case where one test result was missed at one juncture – was patently false.

In turn, UPMC took the position that every piece of information related to the investigations by the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) and the State Health Department were protected from discovery by reason of peer review privilege under the Pennsylvania Peer Review Protection Act (“PRPA”). In addition to the PRPA, UPMC pointed to an prior Allegheny County Common Pleas decision in which the Court held that third party investigations were privileged.

The dispute was first heard by a Court appointed Special Discovery Master who agreed with our position. The issue was then heard by the Honorable R. Stanton Wettick, Jr., who authored the prior opinion UPMC was rely on. Judge Wettick also agreed with our position.

The issue was then argued before the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Later, in yet another landmark decision expanding patients’ rights, the Superior Court issued a well-publicized Opinion, interpreting specific provisions of the PRPA, holding that third party investigations of hospital and doctors, such as those by DHS, are not protected from discovery by the PRPA.