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Court Upholds Board’s Subpoena

Maryland’s intermediate appellate court recently upheld the Maryalnd Board of Physicians’ ability to subpoena randomly selected patient records to investigate whether a complaint regarding a specific patient is an isolated incident or part of a pattern of behavior.

The Facts

The case of Morrill v. Maryland Board of Physicians arose out of a complaint filed against Dr. Ann Morrill by the mother of a previous patient. The complaint alleged that Dr. Morrill continued to prescribe her daughter opioids after being informed that the daughter was misusing the drugs. The complaint further alleged that Dr. Morrill had also “done this” to unnamed “others.” 

In response, the Board issued a subpoena for the daughter’s medical records and then issued a second subpoena, requesting the complete medical records of nine additional, randomly selected patients. 

Dr. Morrill objected to the second subpoena and only complied with that request after failing to have a court block the subpoena.

The Appeal

Curiously, after providing all of the requested records to the Board, Dr. Morrill still appealed the lower court’s failure to block the subpoena. While the Board of Physicians argued that the appeal should be dismissed as irrelevant, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court decided to hear the case, because the opioid epidemic has become a matter of public concern. 

Turning to the merits of the case, the appellate court, not surprisingly, concluded that the subpoena for randomly selected patient records were relevant to the Board’s investigation, and that requesting medical records for nine patients was not too indefinite or overbroad. 

Generally, it is good advice for physicians to cooperate with subpoenas from the Maryland Board of Physicians, recognizing that in some instances it may be possible to negotiate a narrowing of the scope of a subpoena if it is overbroad or unduly burdensome.

 

Margaret M. Witherup
410-576-4145 • mwitherup@gfrlaw.com