Court: HCR ManorCare QAPI reports must be turned over

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A dissenting justice called the decision “quite troubling.”
A dissenting justice called the decision “quite troubling.”

A ruling by the West Virginia Supreme Court as to which nursing home internal documents are fair game in lawsuits has providers around the country sitting up and taking notice.

That court ruled that Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Program reports are not protected by state law. At issue is a wrongful death lawsuit brought by a former resident's family against HCR ManorCare's Heartland Charleston facility, located in Charleston, WV.

ManorCare claimed in court proceedings that the reports were meant solely for the company's Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Program, and were excluded from discovery. But West Virginia's highest court disagreed. It upheld a lower court ruling that found ManorCare did not prove that the reports were submitted, or were intended to be submitted, to a peer review committee. 

This means they weren't barred from discovery by the state's peer review privilege law, the court wrote.

ManorCare declined to comment to McKnight's on the court's decision.

The fact that nurse consultant reports (“Center Visit Summaries”) are open to discovery is not welcome news to the provider community, and HCR ManorCare in particular.

Plaintiff's attorneys for Sharon Hanna's family wanted access to the reports to counter an assertion by HCR ManorCare attorneys that it had not acted improperly.

The court, however, spared the nursing home chain from having to produce board of director briefing packets, citing attorney-client privilege as a guarding factor.

A dissenting opinion praised the skilled nursing provider for attempting to comply with what it saw was proper court procedure. The company “repeatedly” asked for certain proceedings to be held in judges' chambers, which would be supported by case law used around the country, wrote Justice Robin Jean Davis.

She called the conclusion that the nurse consultant's reports were not considered “peer review” — which could have exempted them from discovery — “quite troubling.”