Pennsylvania Appeals Court Reaffirms Psychiatric Records Privilege in Emotional Pain Suit


On January 10, 2022, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the plaintiff (father) did not waive his psychiatrist-patient privilege when he claimed emotional distress and anxiousness in a negligence suit against Main Line Health, Inc. due to alleged injuries to his son during birth. The defense counsel for Main Line Health argued that by initially pleading negligent infliction of emotional distress, which was later dropped from the amended complaint, the plaintiff waived privilege, and records relating to treatment by his psychiatrist should be discoverable. The trial court agreed, the plaintiffs appealed, and the Superior Court reversed.

The Superior Court concluded the father’s general claim that he suffered emotional pain as a result of the child’s injuries is not the same as claiming he suffered a mental injury that required treatment, which was deemed the prerequisite for waiving privilege. At the  deposition, the father testified that he “remembers getting instantly anxious and confused” in the delivery room. He further attested  how the child’s injuries impacted his relationship with his wife and their struggle to reconnect and get back to a marital, physical relationship. Still, the Court observed that the father “did not directly place his mental condition at issue by making allegations of anxiety, mental injury, severe emotional trauma requiring treatment, or psychiatric/psychological conditions.” Rather his allegation of emotional pain and mental distress was considered a general averment that did not place his mental condition at issue or constitute a waiver of privilege. The Court also held that a loss of consortium claim does not waive the psychiatrist-patient privilege. 

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