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Disability Rights North Carolina v. Frye Regional Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division

November 7, 2014

DISABILITY RIGHTS NORTH CAROLINA, Plaintiff,
v.
FRYE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

RICHARD L. VOORHEES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

THIS MATTER is before the Court upon Defendant Frye Regional Medical Center, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, filed on August 16, 2013. (Doc. 6). Plaintiff Disability Rights North Carolina filed a Memorandum in Opposition on September 3, 2013, and filed their Suggestion of Subsequently Decided Authority on September 16, 2013. (Docs. 9 and 10).

I. BACKGROUND

Disability Rights of North Carolina (“DRNC”) alleges that Frye Medical Regional Center, Inc. (“Frye Regional”) refuses to provide records in violation of federal law. DRNC requests declaratory and injunctive relief under the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (“PAIMI Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 10801 et seq.

DRNC is North Carolina’s duly-designated state Protection and Advocacy System (“P&A”) for individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 1080(b). DRNC is entrusted, empowered, and obligated to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in the state of North Carolina. Id.; 29 U.S.C. § 794e(a)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 15041. Frye Regional is a healthcare provider located in Hickory, North Carolina. (Doc. 1 at 3).

On or about February 18, 2013, an individual with the initials C.L.H. was receiving treatment at Frye Regional and was involved in an altercation with staff. C.L.H. had been previously diagnosed with the mental illness of psychosis. This altercation resulted in Frye Regional staff putting C.L.H. into restraints. At some point in the altercation, C.L.H. suffered a fractured leg. On or about March 10, 2013, C.L.H. was evaluated for shortness of breath and chest pain. Tests revealed a large pulmonary embolus in C.L.H.’s right lung. On March 14, 2013, C.L.H. died in the Intensive Care Unit at Frye Regional.

On or about June 4, 2013, Frye Regional provided to DRNC a report of CLH’s death as part of DRNC’s regular protection and advocacy services and under requirements provided by state law. N.C. Gen. Stat § 122C-31(b), (d). Based on this report, DRNC determined that it had probable cause, as defined in 42 C.F.R. § 51.2, to believe that CLH’s death may have resulted from abuse or neglect. Based on this probable cause determination, DRNC initiated an investigation into CLH’s death under its federal authority provided under the PAIMI Act.

On June 27, 2013, DRNC notified Frye Regional in writing that would it would be investigating allegations concerning abuse or neglect and CLH’s death. DRNC then requested a variety of documents from Frye Regional, including root cause analyses and other peer review records. The letter requesting these documents included the statutory basis for the request and asked that they be provided within 24 hours, as required by the PAIMI Act.

DRNC and Frye Regional agreed that the requested records would be provided by July 19, 2013. On July 22, 2013, DRNC received a disc that Frye Regional’s counsel described as CLH’s complete medical records. The disc did not contain internal investigation records that include root cause analyses and other peer review records. Frye Regional refuses to provide these records on the basis of peer review privilege provided by North Carolina General Statute Section 131E-95(b).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

“The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of a complaint.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In deciding such a motion, courts consider a plaintiff’s well-pleaded allegations as true and view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc., v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Presley, 464 F.3d at 483.

III. ANALYSIS

Frye Regional argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because the records requested are protected under peer review privilege provided by North Carolina law and that this state law is not preempted by the PAIMI Act. Frye Regional’s motion will be denied because the North Carolina’s peer review privilege does not apply to DRNC’s ...


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