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Estate of Murphy v. State, Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Alaska

December 19, 2018

ESTATE OF JOSEPH MURPHY, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION [RE: MOTION AT DOCKET 53]

          JOHN W. SEDWICK SENIOR JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         I. MOTION PRESENTED

         At docket 53 plaintiff Estate of Joseph Murphy (“Plaintiff”) asks the court to conduct an in camera review of certain personnel and disciplinary records of defendant Jill Robinson (“Robinson”). Robinson responded at docket 68. Plaintiff replies at docket 74. Oral argument was not requested and would not be of assistance to the court.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Joseph Murphy (“Murphy”) was sent to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center (“Lemon Creek”) from Bartlett Regional Hospital on August 13, 2015, to be temporarily detained for alcohol detoxification and suicide monitoring pursuant to AS 47.37.170. Early the next morning he complained to Robinson, a nurse at Lemon Creek, of chest pains and requested his medication. Plaintiff alleges that Robinson did not obtain Murphy's medication and did not follow-up or monitor his condition. Plaintiff alleges that Murphy made two subsequent requests for medication to other Lemon Creek staff members but his requests went unheeded. According to Plaintiff, a Lemon Creek video shows Murphy collapsing in his cell twenty-six minutes after he first requested his medications from Robinson. He was declared dead about an hour later, after resuscitation efforts failed.

         III. DISCUSSION

         As part of Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Robinson, Plaintiff served various requests for production, including the following:

1) RFP No.1 - production of Robinson's state employee personnel file;
2) RFP No. 4 - production of any written or recorded statements or communications regarding Joseph Murphy, the death of Joseph Murphy, investigations into the death of Joseph Murphy, or the Department of Corrections's November 13, 2015 Administrative Review by Dean Williams and Joe Hanlon;
3) RFP No. 7 - production of any writing received or sent by Robinson in which she discusses Joseph Murphy and/or her care and treatment of him.

         Robinson objected to the three requests based on her right to privacy under AS 39.25.080 and Article I § 22 of the Alaska Constitution and based on medical peer review privilege. After the court's issuance of an order at docket 48 regarding the applicability of AS 39.25.080 to Defendant Corcoran's personnel file, Robinson narrowed the basis of her objection to medical peer review privilege, set forth at AS 18.23.030.

         The medical peer review privilege statute protects the proceedings of and records generated by a medical peer review organization and protects the investigative process used by the organization.[1] The statute states as follows:

(a) Except as provided in (b) of this section, all data and information acquired by a review organization in the exercise of its duties and functions shall be held in confidence and may not be disclosed to anyone except to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of the review organization and is not subject to subpoena or discovery. Except as provided in (b) of this section, a person described in AS 18.23.020 may not disclose what transpired at a meeting of a review organization except to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of a review organization, and the proceedings and records of a review organization are not subject to discovery or introduction into evidence in a civil action against a health care provider arising out of the matter that I the subject of consideration by the review organization. Information, documents, or records otherwise available from original sources are not immune from discovery or use in a civil action merely because they were presented during proceedings of a review organization, nor may a person who testified before a review organization or who is a member of it be prevented from testifying as to matters within the person's knowledge, but a witness may not be asked about the witness's testimony before a review organization or opinions formed by the witness as a result of its hearings, except as provided in (b) of this section.[2]

         Disclosure of information and details deemed confidential under the statute constitutes a misdemeanor.[3] The parties agree that the Department of Corrections' peer review committee qualifies as a ...


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