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Kathlyn A. Rhodes v. County of Placer

January 13, 2011

KATHLYN A. RHODES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF PLACER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Presently before the court is a motion for a court order authorizing the immediate release of plaintiff's psychiatric records from the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center, which was filed by defendants Sonja Marie Jackson, M.D., and David Fakhri, M.D. (Dkt. No. 109.) Several of the other defendants in this action joined in the motion.*fn1 (Dkt. Nos. 112-15.) Plaintiff failed to file a written opposition to the motion.

The court heard this matter on its law and motion calendar on January 13, 2011. Attorney Robert F. Tyler appeared on behalf the moving defendants, Drs. Jackson and Fakhri, and attorneys for the other defendants who joined in the motion, and some defendants who did not join in the motion, also appeared at the hearing. Plaintiff, who is an attorney but is appearing pro se, appeared on her own behalf despite the fact that she failed to file a written opposition or a statement of non-opposition to the motion. Indeed, plaintiff conceded at the hearing that she does not oppose the motion. The undersigned has considered the briefs, oral arguments, and the record in this case and, for the reasons stated below, grants the motion for a court order authorizing the release of plaintiff's psychiatric records. Briefly stated, plaintiff has placed her mental condition directly at issue in this case, and defendants, especially those against whom plaintiff has alleged claims of medical malpractice, medical battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress for which plaintiff seeks damages, are entitled to access to plaintiff's mental records from the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center in order to adequately prepare their respective defenses.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

The operative complaint in this case is plaintiff's verified Second Amended

Complaint. (Dkt. No. 66.) The Second Amended Complaint alleges facts relating to plaintiff's interaction with police officers for the City of Rocklin and various other persons, which began on November 20, 2007, with an alleged search of plaintiff in the parking lot of a Comfort Suites hotel in Rocklin, California. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that various police officers also, among other things, illegally searched plaintiff's hotel room later that night, physically beat and sexually assaulted plaintiff, and transported plaintiff to the Placer County Mail Jail, where plaintiff was refused medical attention. (Id. ¶¶ 11-14, 16.) Plaintiff further alleges that on November 21, 2007, after spending 24 hours in solitary confinement without food or water, she was transported by ambulance to the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center ("Treatment Center") and was physically beaten yet again by the ambulance personnel in the parking lot of the Treatment Center.*fn3 (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) She alleges that she was "falsely imprisoned and involuntarily confined for eight (8) days" at the Treatment Center. (Id. ¶ 18.)

The Second Amended Complaint alleges that Dr. Jackson is a licensed psychiatrist who provided psychiatric treatment to plaintiff at the Treatment Center on or about November 25-28, 2007, and that Dr. Fakhri treated plaintiff at the Treatment Center on November 25, 2007. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) More specifically, plaintiff alleges:

Dr. JACKSON treated Plaintiff on or about November 25-28, 2007, and, without Plaintiff's consent prescribed Seroquel, a dangerous medication because of its adverse side effects, including causing diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, nightmares, weight gain, "cotton mouth" and other adverse side effects which were not disclosed to Plaintiff and, thus, was below the standard of care required of a California psychiatrist. Dr. FAKHRI treated Plaintiff on or about November 25, 2007, and changed the dosage of Seroquel and prescribed Lithobid (Lithium). Plaintiff also saw Dr. FAKHRI at [the Treatment Center] on July 27, 2008, when Plaintiff was attempting to obtain copies of medical records. When Plaintiff called Dr. FAKHRI's name, Dr. FAKHRI looked at Plaintiff, then turned around and walked away, ignoring and abandoning Plaintiff. [The Treatment Center's] agent or employee, Kara Miller, a social worker, told Plaintiff during her hospitalization that if Plaintiff did not take her medications ordered by Drs. JACKSON and FAKHRI, Plaintiff would remain a patient at [the Treatment Center] for a very long time. None of the Defendants identified in this paragraph advised Plaintiff of the risks by ingesting the prescribed medications or that Plaintiff had the right to refuse medications, the right to contact a Patient's Rights Advocate, and/or the right to a hearing within 72 hours after being admitted, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code Section 5150, to determine whether there were sufficient grounds to confine Plaintiff involuntarily. (Id.)

Among her 14 identified claims for relief, most of which assert several additional claims under the identified heading, plaintiff alleges claims that put her mental health in controversy or relate to plaintiff's alleged confinement at the Treatment Center. For example, plaintiff asserts claims arising from her alleged involuntarily confinement at the Treatment Center pursuant to California Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150, a statutory section that necessarily relates to a person's mental health.*fn4 (See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Additionally, plaintiff's sixth claim for relief alleges "medical battery" against the Treatment Center and Drs. Jackson and Fakhri, among other defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 53-58.) Plaintiff also asserts a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from the various alleged acts of medical battery. (See id. ¶¶ 62, 65, 67.) Plaintiff further alleges that she was falsely imprisoned, in part, by the Treatment Center. (Id. at 74-75.) Her twelfth claim for relief alleges that the Treatment Center and Dr. Fakhri, among several other defendants, committed medical malpractice by, in part, forcing plaintiff to ingest medications detrimental to plaintiff's health. (See id. ¶ 85-88.)

On October 18, 2010, counsel for Drs. Jackson and Fakhri, attempted to obtain plaintiff's psychiatric records from the Treatment Center by contacting the Treatment Center's in-house counsel, Rick Heyer. (Tyler Decl. ¶ 5, Dkt. No. 109, Doc. No. 109-2.) Mr. Heyer told the doctors' counsel that they could only have access to the records by either obtaining a "signed HIPAA compliant authorization" from plaintiff, or by obtaining a court order.*fn5 (Id.)

On October 28, 2010, counsel for Drs. Jackson and Fakhri sent a letter to plaintiff requesting that plaintiff sign an attached authorization form and return it to counsel by November 12, 2010. (Tyler Decl. ¶ 6 & Ex. A.) As completed by Drs. Jackson and Fakhri or their counsel, the authorization form seeks plaintiff's "[m]ental health or developmental disability treatment records (excludes 'psychotherapy notes')." (Tyler Decl., Ex. A at 2.) More specifically, the form seeks the following types of records that pertain to plaintiff: consultation reports, discharge summaries, emergency room reports, histories and physicals, progress notes, psychiatric evaluations, and behavioral evaluations. (Id.) The relevant time period is noted as "November 2006 to the present." (Id.) As of the date that Drs. Jackson and Fakhri filed the pending motion, plaintiff had not responded to the request. (Tyler Decl. ¶ 7.)

As a result of plaintiff's initial refusal to execute the authorization form, Drs. Jackson and Fakhri filed the pending motion seeking a court-ordered release of the psychiatric records. Plaintiff, who has repeatedly represented to the court that she is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of California, failed to file a written opposition or statement of non-opposition to the pending motion.

At the hearing, plaintiff represented that at some recent point she signed an authorization form for the release of her records from the Treatment Center, but had modified the dates delineating the relevant period for the records at issue. Plaintiff has filed no declaration substantiating her representation or attaching her proposed revised authorization form. The time to file such a declaration and document was prior to the hearing, and the undersigned assigns no weight to plaintiff's ...


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