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RI: hospital sought discovery of HHS's records: discovery denied--hospital on 'fishing trip'.

CASE FACTS: Rhode Island Hospital challenged a decision of the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (PRRB). The dispute involved the hospital's reimbursement level for the fiscal year 1999. The dispute with which the court was confronted was whether the dismissal of the hospital's appeal by the PRRB for failure to file a timely position paper had a preclusive effect on the issue raised on appeal. The PRRB held that it did and refused to allow the hospital to litigate the issue by adding or transferring it to another pending appeal. The hospital contended that the PRRB erred because, prior to the dismissal of the hospital's case for failure to file a position paper, the hospital exercised its right under the Code of Federal Regulations to transfer or add the issue back into its initial appeal. The PRRB filed a motion for a protective order. A hearing was held on January 24, 2007. The motion was directed to the hospital's Request for Production of Documents served on the PRRB by the hospital on or about November 24, 2006. The request broadly sought discovery regarding certain PRRB "policies or rules" and prior decisions of the PRRB on certain issues. The PRRB argued that the request should have been stricken for three reasons: (1) Under federal law the Court's review is limited to the administrative record--making extrinsic discovery inappropriate; (2) the procedural issue in this case was of regulatory and statutory interpretation that could be resolved without the need for discovery; and (3) responding to the hospital's requests would have been unduly burdensome and expensive.

COURT'S OPINION: The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island denied the hospital's request for discovery. The court held, inter alia, that discovery must be relevant to a claim or defense, or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The court concluded that the discovery sought by the hospital was neither relevant nor reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. The court found that the hospital offered absolutely no factual support for the existence of inconsistent decisions and was simply on a "fishing expedition." The court observed that if it were to allow all plaintiffs in administrative appeals to do so based solely on a speculative accusation of"possible disparate" enforcement by administrative agencies, such a result would place the burden on administrative agencies to research all of their prior decisions for plaintiffs in administrative appeals in an attempt to locate any past inconsistent decisions. Accordingly, the court granted the PRRB's motion for a protective order and denied the hospital's motion for discovery. Rhode Island Hospital v. Leavitt, No. 06-26-ML (D.R.I. 01/26/2007) F.3.d--RI

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years. he concentrates in health care law with the Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
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Title Annotation:Hospital Law Decisions of Note
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Hospital Law's Regan Report
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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