PA Medical Malpractice

Access to a nurse’s personnel file became a key issue in a recent PA medical malpractice wrongful death and survival action. In Snyder v. DeCesare, the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County considered whether plaintiffs were entitled to disclosure of the personnel file of defendant Heather Shingler, RN. Plaintiffs alleged that their unborn child died in utero due to negligent fetal monitoring by the nurse, who was subsequently terminated from her employment with defendant Moses Taylor Hospital.

Plaintiffs sought a court order to compel production of the nurse’s personnel file, alleging a nexus between her termination of employment and her alleged negligent fetal monitoring. Defendants claimed there was no connection between the two events. Also, Nurse Shingler denied that her termination was related to the facts alleged in this case.


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The Pennsylvania Peer Review Protection Act, 63 P.S. § 425.1 et seq., is a statute that, among other things, prohibits the proceedings and records of an internal review committee convened to evaluate the quality of care provided by a health care provider(s) from disclosure. In essence, the purpose of this portion of the Act is to allow health care organizations to perform honest, critical analysis of their health care providers, without fear that the contents of their review will become public or be used against them in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The confidentiality provision of the Peer Review Protection Act is frequently used by hospitals, physicians, and health care organizations to prevent internal records from disclosure in malpractice litigation. In practice, this confidentiality provision is often employed more broadly than the statute permits, and is used to justify the withholding of internal records and documents that were not truly created as part of any internal peer review process.


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