Mental Health and Substance Abuse Records Properly Precluded Following Withdrawal of PTSD/Mental Injury Injury Claims in Elevator Accident Case

In Alford v. City of New York, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously affirmed a trial court’s refusal to allow defendants to obtain or use plaintiff’s medical records relating to prior substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Plaintiff sued to recover for back and knee injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and mental and psychological injuries, allegedly suffered when he fell about seven feet down an elevator shaft located in a building owned by defendant NYCHA. Plaintiff eventually withdrew his claim for PTSD and mental and psychological injuries.

Citing New York Mental Hygiene Law § 33.13[c][1] and First Department precedent, the court explained why a protective order was justified:

Having granted plaintiff’s motion to withdraw the claimed injuries relating to his mental condition, the motion court providently determined that plaintiff cannot be compelled to disclose confidential records relating to prior treatment for substance or alcohol abuse or his mental condition. [Plaintiff’s] remaining claim for ‘loss of enjoyment of life,’ relating solely to his claimed physical injuries, does not warrant disclosure of substance abuse and mental health treatment information, since its potential relevance has not been shown. A protective order preventing defendants from obtaining or using plaintiff’s medical records regarding his mental health and purported treatment for alcohol abuse was properly issued, because defendants have not shown that the interests of justice significantly outweigh plaintiff’s right to confidentiality. Given defendants’ failure to offer expert or other evidence establishing a particularized need for inquiry into matters not directly at issue in this action, the denial of their discovery request was appropriate.

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