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Steven Campbell, An Individual; Carlota v. William Logue

May 11, 2012

STEVEN CAMPBELL, AN INDIVIDUAL; CARLOTA FRANKLIN-CAMPBELL, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WILLIAM LOGUE, AN INDIVIDUAL AND AS TRUSTEE FOR THE SEARS/LOGUE REVOCABLE TRUST; DAVID MARQUEZ, AN INDIVIDUAL;
MIKELSON YACHTS, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; NAN YA PLASTICS CORPORATION, A FOREIGN CORPORATION; NAN YA PLASTICS, A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Bartick United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE MOTION TO QUASH [ECF No. 86]

On March 27, 2012, Plaintiff Carlota Franklin-Campbell ("Plaintiff") filed an Ex Parte Motion to Quash Subpoena to Psychotherapist. (ECF No. 86.) On April 19, 2012, Defendants William Logue and Sears/Logue Revocable Trust (collectively, "Defendants") filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 89.) On April 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Reply. (ECF No. 90.) Based on a careful review of the parties' papers, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion to Quash is hereby GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

This is an action brought by Plaintiff and her husband, Steven Campbell. Mr. Campbell alleges that on December 7, 2008, he suffered injuries after falling on a boat while marlin fishing near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Mr. Campbell seeks to recover for his personal injuries under negligence and strict product liability theories. Plaintiff alleges only a loss of consortium claim in which she seeks to recover for the loss of "care, comfort and consortium of her husband." (First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 44, at 9:27.)

During her deposition in this action, Plaintiff testified that following her husband's accident she began taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, Dr. Delbert Secrist. When questioned about the purpose of her visits to Dr. Secrist, Plaintiff simply stated: "I was overwhelmed with my situation."

Following Plaintiff's deposition, counsel for Defendants issued a subpoena to Dr. Secrist in which Defendants requested all records from Dr. Secrist relating to Plaintiff, including, among other things, medical and dental histories, examinations and diagnoses, correspondence and billing records. Defendants' subpoena states: "IT IS ALLEGED THAT INJURIES HAVE BEEN SUSTAINED TO THE HEALTH AND NERVOUS SYSTEM AND HAVE CAUSED/CAUSE GREAT MENTAL, PHYSICAL, AND NERVOUS PAIN AND SUFFERING." Plaintiff seeks an order quashing the subpoena.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Discovery Dispute

In her Motion to Quash, Plaintiff argues that the records sought by Defendants are privileged, confidential and protected from disclosure by the patient-psychotherapist privilege and Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Plaintiff also contends that the "records are irrelevant because [she] is not seeking to recover the costs of this treatment or to introduce statements made by or to her psychotherapist as evidence of liability or damages for her claim." She also contends that because she is making only a claim for loss of consortium, and not for emotional distress, she has not waived the privilege.

In their Opposition, Defendants cite to Plaintiff's deposition testimony, summarized above, in support of their position that they are entitled to discover additional information concerning Plaintiff's claims and alleged damages. Defendants rely on this Court's opinion in Price v. County of San Diego, 165 F.R.D. 614, 622 (S.D. Cal. 1996), in which Judge Anthony J. Battaglia found that the psychotherapist-patient privilege was waived when the plaintiff's psychological records were placed at issue as a result of the plaintiff's claim for loss of consortium. Defendants also rely on Aguilar v. County of Fresno, No. 08-cv-1202-AWI (GSA), 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107946, at *20-21 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 29, 2009), in which the court compelled disclosure of the plaintiff's mental health treatment records despite the plaintiff having not made a claim for emotional distress.

In her Reply, Plaintiff again argues that the requested records are not relevant because she is not making a claim for emotional distress. Plaintiff also argues that the cases relied upon by Defendants are inapposite.

B. Analysis

As Plaintiff recognizes, in Jaffe v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1, 15 (1996), the Supreme Court held "that confidential communications between a licensed psychotherapist and her patients in the course of diagnosis or treatment are protected from compelled disclosure under Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence." The Supreme Court's recognition of this privilege was based, at least in part, on a recognition that "[e]ffective psychotherapy . . . depends upon an atmosphere of confidence and trust in which the patient is willing to make a frank and complete disclosure of facts, emotions, memories, and fears." Id. at 10. The privilege also "serves the public interest by facilitating the provision of appropriate treatment for individuals suffering the effects of a mental or emotional problem. The mental health of our citizenry, no less than its physical health, is a public good of transcendent importance." Id. at 11.

Here, Defendants do not suggest that federal law does not recognize the psychotherapist-patient privilege. Rather, Defendants maintain that Plaintiff waived the privilege by putting her emotional health at issue in this case, as evidenced by her deposition testimony in which she stated that following her husband's accident she visited Dr. Secrist and was prescribed medication because she was "overwhelmed with [her] situation." Plaintiff maintains that she has not waived the privilege because she is not seeking to recover the costs of the treatment provided by Dr. Secrist, nor is she seeking to introduce statements made to or by Dr. Secrist as evidence of liability or damages. Rather, Plaintiff states that she is only making a claim for loss ...


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