September 26, 2019
By Tom Ryan
There have been many civil lawsuits against churches in recent years, seeking damages as a result of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. One issue that may come up is whether in such a case mental health records of the alleged abuser can be obtained. This issue was addressed in a recent reported opinion in Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in a case called St. Luke’s Institute v. Andre Jones.
The opinion indicates that Jones filed suit in Massachusetts against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Congregation of the Sacred Heart, alleging that Jones was abused as a minor by a brother in the congregation. The abuse was alleged to have occurred from 1978-1992. During the discovery phase of the Massachusetts suit, it was learned that the brother had received mental health treatment in the early 1990s at St. Luke’s, which for many years had treated Catholic clergy.
The church defendants indicated they had destroyed two reports from St. Luke’s about that treatment, so Jones sought to subpoena them from St. Luke’s in Maryland. St. Luke’s objected, raising privacy issues under the Maryland Confidentiality of Medical Records Act, although the brother had died in 2011. The trial Court ordered that the entire mental health record be produced under seal to the court in Massachusetts, and St. Luke’s appealed.
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