New Washington Law Limits Discovery of Health Care Information
Effective today, June 7, is a new law passed by the Washington Legislature that limits discovery of health care information in claims for non-economic damages brought under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), RCW 49.60. Under the new section, health care information will not be relevant to a claim unless the claimant puts their health at issue by: alleging a specific diagnosable physical or psychiatric injury; relying on health care records; or alleging disability discrimination. Even if the claimant does put their health at issue as stated, the law limits discovery to those records created in the two years prior to the conduct, and relating specifically to the injury, health care provider, or disability at issue.
This is a significant departure from current practice where, for example, a defendant in a lawsuit could ask for health care records even in general damages cases or going back 10 or more years in efforts to identify other stressors or causes of any claimed injury. It is believed that this practice had a chilling effect and caused some potential plaintiffs to forgo litigation. If you have any questions as to how your health care records may or may not be relevant to a claim, feel free to reach out to any member of the labor and employment group.