other measures as are necessary. 42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2(e). The Court must now look to the Magistrate Judge's order to determine if it contains a clear error of law in light of the foregoing standards.
C. Magistrate Judge's Order
The Magistrate Judge ordered disclosure of the confidential records. As an initial matter, and presumably on policy grounds, the Magistrate Judge stated that the plaintiff "is free not to provide his consent, [but] he may not have it both ways and claim damages yet seek to conceal evidence which may very well pertain directly to his claim." July 17, 1995 Order at 2. The concealment of evidence relating to a material issue of the case clearly supports a showing of good cause, particularly if the evidence is unavailable by another means. The Magistrate Judge found that the evidence was, in fact, not available by some other means. Specifically, the Magistrate Judge found that, four years after the treatment, the plaintiff "would be unable to provide the detail which is almost certainly contained in the written record." July 17, 1995 Order at 3. In addition, the plaintiff could not testify as to the comments and notes of the treating physician. Accordingly, "a further deposition would not adequately provide the information nor would any other method which occurs to this court." Id. This Court, upon consideration of the papers submitted with this motion, and upon review of the record in this case, can find no facts that show that the information contained in the subject files can be obtained by another means. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge committed no clear legal error by ordering disclosure based on a finding that the evidence was not otherwise available.
Second, the Magistrate Judge found that there was "a public interest in getting to the truth of plaintiff's claim of emotional damages." July 17, 1995 Order at 3. The Magistrate Judge essentially decided that by not disclosing the files, the plaintiff would be withholding information "that might cast doubt upon that claim," and that such nondisclosure would be "contrary to the truth-seeking function of litigation." Id. This Court notes that it has long been held that there are strong public policies that favor disclosure for the purposes of narrowing issues, ascertaining facts, and reducing the possibility of surprise at trial. See Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 91 L. Ed. 451, 67 S. Ct. 385 (1947); Fidelis Fisheries, Ltd. v. Thorden, 12 F.R.D. 179 (D.C.N.Y. 1952). Particularly, when the confidential information is safeguarded, as with the Magistrate Judge's order which limited disclosure to the defendants' counsel only, the policies in favor of disclosure must be given due weight. The Magistrate Judge's finding of a public interest in disclosure is clearly supported by the law.
Third, the Magistrate Judge's order found that any potential harm to the plaintiff would be minimal, particularly in light of the fact that disclosure would be limited to defendants' counsel, and given the fact that the Court had such power as would be necessary to safeguard against the potential disclosure of the information. Id. The plaintiff has made no showing that the limited disclosure provided for in the Magistrate Judge's order would precipitate any harm to the plaintiff. Absent some showing of harm to the plaintiff by disclosure, and given the public interest in disclosure as set forth above, the Magistrate Judge did not commit a clear legal error by weighing the balance of interests in this case in favor of disclosure.
Finally, the plaintiff argues that disclosure should be limited by six months, since only records from the date of the alleged unlawful breach of confidentiality are relevant to this case. This Court disagrees. The records from dates prior to the alleged unlawful disclosure are directly relevant to whether and to what extent the disclosure caused the plaintiff any emotional harm. See Conway, 16 F.3d at 510; O'Boyle v. Jensen, 150 F.R.D. 519 (M.D.Pa. 1993). Such information should be discoverable.
Based on the foregoing, this Court finds that the Magistrate Judge properly issued the July 17, 1995 order, and that there was no abuse of the Magistrate Judge's discretion or clear error of law by ordering the disclosure of certain confidential records of the plaintiff, particularly in light of the protection set forth in the order to safeguard against potential further dissemination of the information. Accordingly, this Court affirms the July 17, 1995 order, and orders the plaintiff, Clinical Services and Consultation, Inc., and the defendants to comply with the order in its entirety.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated at Binghamton, New York
Oct 4, 1995
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.