June 23, 2021
County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Johnson & Johnson) (June 15, 2021, D077794)
Plaintiffs brought suit against pharmaceutical company defendants for false and misleading statements made in a deceptive opioid marketing scheme. Plaintiffs moved to compel production of the medical records of over 5,000 patients treated for substance abuse in third-party, county-run treatment programs. The trial court granted the motion, provided that identifying information was first removed by a third-party vendor. The non-party counties each filed a writ petition, seeking to vacate the order as a violation of the patients’ right to privacy.
The Court of Appeal granted the writ petitions, directing the trial court to vacate its order compelling production and deny the motion to compel. Applying the framework of Hill v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1, the court determined that the order threatened “serious intrusion” into the patients’ privacy rights. The court found that even disclosing the identified information to a third party for purposes of removing identifying information, implicated the patients’ privacy rights, and that the plaintiffs had not established an interest in obtaining this information sufficient to justify the proposed privacy invasion.