ALABAMA – Discovery – Open Records Act

The Supreme Court of Alabama has reviewed the applicability of the state’s Open Records Act to public health care authorities. In resolving a discovery dispute, the Court determined that public health care authorities are subject to the act, and required the health care authority to disclose its records to the plaintiff.

This case originated as a preliminary injunction brought by Central Alabama Radiology and Oncology (CARO) against the Health Care Authority for Baptist Health seeking enforcement of a non-compete agreement between the two. The agreement said that Baptist Health agreed not to employ radiologists in the geographic region around CARO, but Baptist Health wished to open a new facility nearby which would work in the same practice areas as CARO. Baptist Health attempted to terminate the non-compete agreement and open the new facility, which led to the contest from CARO.

CARO’s counsel was permitted to inspect some of Baptist’s records in discovery, and found an exchange during a board meeting that indicated that it may have been Baptist’s intent from the inception of the plan to open the new facility that CARO would be put out of business. CARO then sought to have the same board minutes produced in discovery, pursuant to Alabama’s Open Records Act, while Baptist argued it was not subject to the Act.

The Court ruled that, as a public health authority, Baptist Health was required to submit documents in compliance with Alabama’s Open Records Act. The Court found that a health care authority acts as an instrumentality of the state when it engages in anticompetitive practices, and was thereby subject to the Open Records Act. The Court further found that the requests made by CARO did not exceed the scope of the Open Records Act because they sought records made by a public official. While some records made by public servants contain sensitive information and are an exception to the rule that such records be subject to the Open Records Act, the Court was not receptive to Baptist Health’s arguments about the documents containing irrelevant, proprietary, or confidential information.

The Health Care Authority for Baptist Health v. Central Alabama Radiation Oncology, LLC (June 28, 2019).

Read the full opinion here…

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