Jones v. DruryAnnotate this Case
The Alaska Supreme Court granted this petition for review to consider how the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) affected Alaska personal injury case law allowing a defendant ex parte contact with a plaintiff’s doctors as a method of informal discovery. The issue the Court requested the parties specifically brief was whether the federal law preempted Alaska case law, or, if not, whether federal law otherwise required us to overrule or modify our case law. After review, the Court concluded the federal law did not preempt existing Alaska case law. But the Court also concluded it should overrule the case law because its foundations "have been eroded by a cultural shift in views on medical privacy and new federal procedural requirements undermining the use of ex parte contact as an informal discovery measure." The Court therefore held that - absent voluntary agreement - a defendant may not make ex parte contact with a plaintiff’s treating physicians without a court order, which generally should not be issued absent extraordinary circumstances. "We believe that formal discovery methods are more likely to comply with the federal law and promote justice and that such court orders rarely, if ever, will be necessary."