Woodland Hills personal injury attorney Barry P. Goldberg must obtain countless medical records for his clients in order to perfect and settle claims. The cost of retrieving these records has become prohibitive with the advent of so-called “medical record” companies acting as intermediaries for health care providers. In essence, this middle man has created a multi-billion dollar industry on the backs of injured plaintiffs who end up bearing the costs associated with obtaining their own medical records.
Mr. Goldberg has been closely following the case of Nicodemus v. Saint Francis Memorial Hospital which has the potential to poke a giant hole in this over-billing scheme. On October 6, 2016, the Court of Appeal certified for publication an opinion reversing the trial court’s denial of a class action certification. More importantly, the case outlines how to obtain medical records practically for free pursuant to Evidence Code § 1158. The Court described the statutory framework, as follows:
“Section 1158 is designed to require medical providers to produce the medical records demanded by patients prior to litigation in a timely fashion and at a reasonable cost. At the time of plaintiff’s appeal, section 1158 provided in pertinent part: “Whenever, prior to the filing of any action or the appearance of a defendant in an action, an attorney at law . . . presents a written authorization therefor signed by an adult patient [or by a patient’s guardian, conservator, parent, or personal representative], . . . a licensed hospital . . . shall make all of the patient’s records . . . available for inspection and copying by the attorney at law . . . promptly upon presentation of the written authorization.” (Former § 1158.) The statute authorizes the requesting attorney to employ a professional photocopier to obtain the records on the attorney’s behalf, and the provider must produce the records within five days. (Ibid.) All “reasonable costs” incurred by a medical provider in locating, copying, or making the records available may be charged to the requesting party, subject to limits set forth in the statute, which include $0.10 per page for reproducing documents measuring up to 8.5 by 14 inches, $0.20 per page for producing documents from microfilm, and clerical costs not to exceed $16 per hour per person for locating and making records available. (Ibid.)”
Section 1158 was amended effective January 1, 2016 (Stats. 2015, ch. 528, § 1, p. 4475), subdivision (b) now provides, “Before the filing of any action, . . . if an attorney at law . . . presents a written authorization therefor signed by an adult patient [or by a patient’s guardian, conservator, parent, or personal representative] . . . to a medical provider, the medical provider shall promptly make all of the patient’s records . . . available for inspection and copying by the attorney at law . . .” And, subdivision (a) now defines “ ‘medical provider’” as including “a licensed hospital.” (Emphasis added.)
Currently, hospitals and medical providers use middle man services such as Health Port (the service in the Nicodemus case) which charges for other things like a “retrieval fee”, higher per page copying fees. Shipping charges and sales tax. For the personal injury plaintiff, this chisels away at the net recovery and has resulted in millions of dollars in illegal charges. Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation is awaiting the final outcome of this litigation in order to implement procedures which will save his clients money on every single case.