Kristen M. Benson, Esq., Successfully Argues at Fourth Department that a Claim of Loss of Enjoyment of Life Entitles Defendants to Explore Plaintiff’s Mental Health Records

Kristen M. Benson, Esq., successful prosecuted an appeal (Donald v. Ahern, 96 AD3d 1608 (4th Dept. 2012)) reversing an Order of the lower court that denied defendant’s request for access to plaintiff’s mental health records and a further deposition of plaintiff addressing her mental health treatment. The plaintiff was claiming physical injuries consisting solely of neck and back pain and general damages for loss of enjoyment of life. There was no claim for emotional/mental distress. Plaintiff’s attorney objected to questions regarding plaintiff’s mental health treatment and objected to producing HIPAA authorizations for mental health records arguing plaintiff’s mental health treatment was not an issue in the case.

The Fourth Department rejected plaintiff’s argument and held, even though plaintiff was not seeking damages for mental health or emotional distress, plaintiff’s depression was NOT an “unrelated” ailment and plaintiff waived patient-physician privilege regarding her mental health treatment “given pre-existing depression, her impaired quality of life and inability to enjoy the activities she enjoyed before the accident could result from physical injuries sustained in the accident, her pre-existing mental condition or aggravation of that condition, or some combination thereof.”

Therefore, this is favorable precedent for defendants as this Decision can be cited for the proposition that regardless of whether a plaintiff claims mental or emotional harm, a plaintiff’s psychological condition is put in issue in a case by virtue of a claim for loss of enjoyment of life.