Doctors’ Peer Review Privilege in Utah

Allred v. Saunders, — P.3d — (Utah 2014)

In this case, the Utah Supreme Court adjudicated an important discovery dispute between a patient and a hospital.  An allegedly ill-performed procedure was followed by the hospital’s internal incident investigation. The plaintiffs sought discovery of the investigation and the credentialing files of the doctor who performed the procedure.

The hospital and the doctor petitioned for a protective order pursuant to Utah Rule of  Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) that provides the following:

“Privileged matters that are not discoverable or admissible in any proceeding of any kind or character include all information in any form provided during and created specifically as part of a request for an investigation, the investigation, findings, or conclusions of peer review, care review, or quality assurance processes of any organization of health care providers … for the purpose of evaluating care provided to reduce morbidity and mortality or to improve the quality of medical care, or for the purpose of peer review of the ethics, competence, or professional conduct of any health care provider.”

The Court held that this petition ought to have been granted, conditional on a proper factual foundation, since Utah R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) has created a broad evidentiary privilege. The Court then remanded the case for an individualized assessment as to the applicability of the privilege.