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UPDATE: Court Stays Order Compelling Production of Quality Reviews, Allowing Appellate Review of Peer Review Protection Act

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Last month, Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence R. Nealon granted a plaintiff’s discovery appeal in her medical malpractice case and ruled that the Peer Review Protection Act (“PRPA”) did not shield quality-of-care reviews conducted by hospital plan corporation First Priority Health IPA-HMO, a subsidiary of co-defendant Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Judge Nealon’s interpretation of the PRPA may now be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, as he recently stayed his order compelling production of the quality-of-care reviews upon the motion of Blue Cross and First Priority.

In his opinion granting the stay of his August 2014 order, Judge Nealon conceded that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court case on which he based his decision—McClellan v. Health Maintenance Organization of PA—was a plurality opinion and therefore has no precedential value, as Blue Cross and First Priority argued.  Accordingly, Judge Nealon stated in his most recent order that there was no appellate review of the issue whether the PRPA encompasses peer reviews conducted by hospital plan corporations.  With no appellate review, Judge Nealon found that the moving defendants possessed the requisite substantial ground for difference of opinion necessary for an appeal to the Superior Court.

Despite the imminent appeal, Judge Nealon anticipated that the case is at least nine months away from trial in Lackawanna County and the issue should be decided to avoid irreparable harm that may result from prematurely exposing the reviews before their discoverable nature was defined.  

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