PAUL RADZIK et al. v. CONNECTICUT CHILDREN'S MEDICAL CENTER et al., SC 19267

Judicial District of Hartford

 

      Appellate Jurisdiction; Final Judgment; Whether Appellate Court Properly Dismissed Appeal from Discovery Order on Finding that Order did not Affect Privacy Rights of Nonparties.  The plaintiff, individually and as administrator for the estate of his son, brought this wrongful death action claiming his son died as a result of his treatment with a drug prescribed by the defendants.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant doctor knew of a link between the drug and the fatal disease that his son subsequently developed and that the doctor failed to inform him of the risk or obtain parental permission to administer the drug.  To ascertain the extent of the doctor's knowledge of the alleged link, the plaintiff sought discovery of electronic documents stored on the doctor’s computers.  The trial court issued an order permitting the imaging of the hard drives of three computers that the doctor used at home and at work and allowing the examination of their contents by an independent forensic consultant.  The court ordered that a discovery master be appointed to supervise the forensic consultant and that the results be submitted to the court for an in camera inspection before any information could be disseminated.  The defendants appealed the discovery order, and the Appellate Court (145 Conn. App. 668) dismissed the appeal for a lack of a final judgment.  The court noted that, generally, discovery orders are not appealable because they do not satisfy the finality test for interlocutory orders set out in State v. Curcio, 191 Conn. 27, 30 (1983), in that they do not (1) terminate a separate and distinct proceeding, or (2) so conclude the rights of the parties that further proceedings cannot affect them.  The defendants argued that, pursuant to Woodbury Knoll, LLC v. Shipman & Goodwin, LLP, 305 Conn. 750 (2012), the ruling effectively terminated a separate and distinct proceeding as to nonparties because privileged information of nonparty patients likely would be captured by the imaging.  The defendants claimed that they were seeking to vindicate the rights of those nonparty patients with their appeal.  The court rejected that argument, explaining that, unlike the order in Woodbury Knoll, the order here was not directed at nonparties and, additionally, the order provided protections for any information regarding nonparties contained in the computers.  The court further determined that, because the discovery dispute was between parties in ongoing litigation, it did not constitute a separate and distinct proceeding.  As to the second prong of Curcio, the Appellate Court opined that, because the order did not provide for dissemination or publication of the forensic imaging, the rights of the defendants were not irretrievably lost and in fact might never be compromised at all.  The Supreme Court will now decide whether the Appellate Court properly held that the privacy rights of nonparties were unaffected by the trial court's order requiring the disclosure of potentially protected health information to a court-appointed discovery master.