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Simpson v. Cedar Springs Hosp., Inc.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

October 14, 2014

Scott R. Simpson, Plaintiff:
v.
Cedar Springs Hospital, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, d/b/a Cedar Springs Behavioral Health System; Roger Dwight Pumphrey, M.D.; and Charles J. Peck, M.D, Defendants:

Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 . El Paso County District Court, Case No. 10CV2481. Honorable David A. Gilbert, Judge.

Rule Made Absolute.

SYLLABUS

In this original C.A.R. 21 proceeding, the supreme court holds that the trial court erred in finding that a hospital must have " authoritative" documentation of approval by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (" CDPHE" ) for the quality management privilege under section 25-3-109, C.R.S. (2014) to apply. The supreme court holds that because the hospital maintained a CDPHE license at all relevant times, its quality management program was necessarily approved by CDPHE, and the documents from its quality management committee meetings are therefore covered by the quality management privilege. The supreme court makes this rule absolute, and remands to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

For Plaintiff: Fleishman & Shapiro, P.C., Steven A. Shapiro, Philip E. Kay, Denver, Colorado.

For Cedar Springs Hospital, Inc., Defendant: Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell, Kevin J. Kuhn, Andrew C. Efaw, Denver, Colorado; Retherford, Mullen & Moore, LLC, Kimberly DeLine, J. Stephen Mullen, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jaudon & Avery LLP, David H. Yun, Jared R. Ellis, Denver, Colorado.

For SCL Health System, Amicus Curiae: Fennemore Craig, P.C., Troy R. Rackham, William J. Garehime, Denver, Colorado.

For HCA-HealthONE, Amicus Curiae: Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Andrew M. Low, John A. Francis, John M. Bowlin, Denver, Colorado.

For Colorado Hospital Association and COPIC, Amici Curiae: Polsinelli, P.C., Gerald A. Neiderman, Ann McCullough, Bennett L. Cohen, Denver, Colorado.

For Community Hospital Association, d/b/a Boulder Community Hospital, Amicus Curiae: Hensen & Cook-Olson, L.L.C., C. Todd Drake, Littleton, Colorado.

For Colorado Defense Lawyers' Association, Amicus Curiae: Hall & Evans, L.L.C., S. Jane Mitchell, Ian K. London, Denver, Colorado.

For Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, Amicus Curiae: Schoenwald & Thompson LLC, Julia T. Thompson, Denver, Colorado.

JUSTICE EID delivered the Opinion of the Court. JUSTICE MÁ RQUEZ dissents.

OPINION

Page 181

EID, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Petitioner-Defendant Cedar Springs Hospital, Inc. (" Cedar Springs" ) petitioned this Court under C.A.R. 21 to issue a rule to show cause challenging the trial court's order that it produce materials related to quality management. In the underlying medical malpractice case, Respondent-Plaintiff Scott R. Simpson (" Simpson" ) sought to obtain the minutes from meetings of two Cedar Springs quality management committees. Cedar Springs refused to produce these documents, asserting that they were protected by the quality management privilege set forth in section 25-3-109, C.R.S. (2014). This privilege covers " records, reports, or other information of a licensed or certified health care facility that are part of a quality management program." § 25-3-109(3) (emphasis added). Section 25-3-109(2) defines " quality management program" as one that is " approved by" the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (" CDPHE" ).

[¶2] Before the trial court, Simpson argued that Cedar Springs failed to show that its quality management program was " approved by" CDPHE because it failed to show that its program complied with all CDPHE regulations. In particular, Simpson pointed to a letter from CDPHE stating that Cedar Springs' quality management plan " has been approved," and adding " [p]lease submit a schedule for implementation of the plan within 90 days." A CDPHE regulation requires facilities to submit " a schedule for [quality management] plan implementation" within 90 days of receiving written notice that its plan has been approved. 6 Code Colo. Regs. 1011-1:11-3.1.1(9) (2014). According to Simpson, because Cedar Springs failed to produce evidence that it submitted such an implementation schedule in response to the letter, its program could not be deemed " approved."

[¶3] Cedar Springs responded that because a quality management program is required to maintain a CDPHE license, and because Cedar Springs was licensed by CDPHE throughout all relevant periods, its quality management program was necessarily approved by CDPHE.

[¶4] The trial court agreed with Simpson, reasoning that licensure was insufficient to demonstrate that facilities " complied with what they are required to comply with," and stating that such facilities should have " authoritative" documentation " immediately in place" confirming that their quality management plans were properly implemented.

[¶5] We now make our rule absolute. Under the trial court's rationale, every privilege determination would entail a top-down compliance review of the facility claiming the privilege. The statutory scheme, however, tasks CDPHE--not the trial court--with ensuring that a licensed facility's quality management complies with applicable CDPHE regulations. Moreover, the trial court's reasoning misperceives the purpose of the quality management privilege, which is to promote frank and honest discussion about quality management, not to act as a backstop for regulatory compliance. We hold that because a quality management program is required in order to be licensed by CDPHE, and because Cedar Springs was licensed by CDPHE during all relevant periods, its quality management program is necessarily " approved" by CDPHE. Therefore, the documents here were created as part of a quality management program approved by CDPHE and are protected by the quality management privilege. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court erred in ordering that they be produced.

Page 182

I.


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