Judge: Michael E. Whitaker, Case: 20STCV44508, Date: 2022-07-25 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 20STCV44508    Hearing Date: July 25, 2022    Dept: 32

PLEASE NOTE:   Parties are encouraged to meet and confer concerning this tentative ruling to determine if a resolution may be reached.  If the parties are unable to reach a resolution and a party intends to submit on this tentative ruling, the party must send an email to the Court at sscdept32@lacourt.org indicating that party’s intention to submit.  The email shall include the case number, date and time of the hearing, counsel’s contact information (if applicable), and the identity of the party submitting on this tentative ruling.  If the Court does not receive an email indicating the parties are submitting on this tentative ruling and there are no appearances at the hearing, the Court may place the motion off calendar or adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court.  If all parties do not submit on this tentative ruling, they should arrange to appear in-person or remotely (which is highly encouraged).  Further, after the Court has posted/issued a tentative ruling, the Court has the inherent authority to prohibit the withdrawal of the subject motion and adopt the tentative ruling as the order of the Court. 







July 25, 2022




Motion to Quash Subpoenas;

Request for Monetary Sanctions


Plaintiff Maria Cornejo


Defendant Compton Holdings, LLC




              Plaintiff Maria Cornejo (“Plaintiff”) sued defendant Compton Holdings, LLC (“Defendant”) based on injuries Plaintiff alleges she sustained when she slipped along a common area walkway on Defendant’s premises.


Plaintiff moves to quash the subpoenas Defendant served on (i) Department of Health Care Services/Office of Legal Services – SSAC – SAC, (ii) Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. – CSC – SAC, and (iii) L.A. Health Care Plan – Downtown – LA.  Plaintiff seeks monetary sanctions.  Defendant opposes the motion and seeks monetary sanctions against Plaintiff.




If a subpoena requires the production of documents, the court may quash the subpoena entirely or modify it.  (Code Civ. Proc., § 1987.1, subd. (a).) 


Current discovery standards hold that, “any party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged,[1] that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action . . . if the matter either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”  (Board of Registered Nursing v. Superior Court (2021) 59 Cal.App.5th 1011, 1039 (hereafter, Board of Nursing).)  “To meet this [test], a party seeking to compel [the] production of records . . . must articulate specific facts justifying the discovery sought; it may not rely on mere generalities.”  (Ibid.; see Johnson v. Superior Court (1968) 258 Cal.App.2d 829, 837 [finding that a subpoena was “insufficient” to compel production because it was “based wholly on the [party’s] alleged information and belief without any statement of supporting facts”].)  However, “[e]ven if information is otherwise discoverable, it may be protected by a constitutional or statutory privilege[,] [including] the right to privacy . . . .”  (Board of Nursing, supra, 59 Cal.App.5th at p. 1039.) 


            “The state Constitution expressly grants Californians a right of privacy.  Protection of informational privacy is the provision's central concern.  .  .  .  The party asserting a privacy right must establish a legally protected privacy interest, an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the given circumstances, and a threatened intrusion that is serious.[2]  The party seeking information may raise in response whatever legitimate and important countervailing interests disclosure serves, while the party seeking protection may identify feasible alternatives that serve the same interests or protective measures that would diminish the loss of privacy.  A court must then balance these competing considerations.”  (Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531, 552 [cleaned up].)

            “Legally recognized privacy interests [include] interests in precluding the dissemination or misuse of sensitive and confidential information (‘informational privacy’) .  .  .  .”  (Hill v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 1, 35 (hereafter, Hill).)  “A particular class of information is [sensitive or confidential] when well-established social norms recognize the need to maximize individual control over its dissemination and use to prevent unjustified embarrassment or indignity.”  (Ibid.) 


It is “well-settled” that “patients have a right to privacy with respect to information contained in . . . [their] medical records.”  (Grafilo v. Wolfsohn (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 1024, 1034.)  Indeed, a patient’s right to privacy “is protected by case law as well as state and federal statutes and regulations.”  (County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (2021) 65 Cal.App.5th 621, 641 (hereafter, County of Los Angeles).)  Additionally, “[t]he privacy interest in psychiatric records is particularly strong, and in some respects, entitled to more robust protection than other types of medical records.”  (Grafilo v. Soorani (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 497, 507.) 

            “As one court explained in discussing the examination of medical records vis-à-vis the right to privacy:  the information that may be recorded in a doctor’s files is broad-ranging.  The chronology of ailments and treatment is potentially sensitive.  Patients may disclose highly personal details of lifestyle and information concerning sources of stress and anxiety.  These are matters of great sensitivity going to the core of the concerns for the privacy of information about an individual.”  (County of Los Angeles, 65 Cal.App.5th at pp. 641–642 [cleaned up].) 


In Britt v. Superior Court (1978) 20 Cal.3d 844, 859, it was recognized that “the filing of a lawsuit may implicitly bring about a partial waiver of one’s constitutional right of . . . privacy.”  However, the California Supreme Court held that “the scope of such ‘waiver’ must be narrowly rather than expansively construed.”   (Ibid.)  In other words, “while [a plaintiff] may not withhold information which relates to any physical or mental condition which they have put in issue by bringing this lawsuit, they are entitled to retain the confidentiality of all unrelated medical or psychotherapeutic treatment they may have undergone in the past.”  (Ibid.)  Therefore, it follows that a patient cannot reasonably expect certain matters to remain private if they are related to the specific issues that the patient has himself brought before a court.  On the other hand, it is objectively reasonable to expect health care records that are unrelated to a current legal dispute to remain private.


With respect to the subject subpoenas for Plaintiff’s medical records, Plaintiff has a right to privacy in her medical history.  Accordingly, the Court cannot order disclosure of Plaintiff’s medical records unless the records are directly relevant to this litigation.


            Here, the subject subpoenas seek all of Plaintiff’s medical and billing records for all time.  (Declaration of Sayeh M. Dayen, ¶ 2, Exhibit A.)  Defendant asserts the subpoenas are proper because, as of the filing date of the opposition, Plaintiff has failed to identify any physicians from whom she sought treatment and care prior to the subject incident.  (Declaration of V. Alan Arshansky, ¶¶ 24-26.)  Defendant argues that such information is relevant to the litigation to determine the veracity of Plaintiff’s claims vis-a-vis whether her claimed injuries arose from the underlying incident or predate it.  Thus, according to counsel for Defendant, V. Alan Arshansky, Defendant was forced to issue the subpoenas with the hope that the identity of Plaintiff’s pre-incident treating doctors would be contained in the requested records.  (Declaration of  V. Alan Arshansky, ¶ 26.)  It would appear, then, that Defendant’s subpoenas truly are a fishing expedition. 


            In its September 7, 2021 Minute Order, the Court found that Plaintiff has limited her claimed injuries in this case to  her knee, shoulder, low back (lumbar spine), elbow, right hip, sciatica, bilateral lower extremities, anxiety and obesity.  (See September 7, 2021 Minute Order.)  Hence, the Court limited Defendant’s prior subpoenas to Plaintiff’s records concerning those body parts for a period of ten years as the only records pertinent to this action.  (Ibid.)  Defendant fails to establish why subpoenas not limited to Plaintiff’s body parts and injuries the Court has already determined to be relevant would be necessary to discover Plaintiff’s prior injuries, if any, similar or related to those in this case.  Put differently, Defendant has failed to show that Plaintiff has placed her entire medical history at issue in this case such that the requested records are directly relevant. 


            Consequently, the Court limits the scope of the subject subpoenas to within ten years preceding the date of the underlying incident.  On balance, the Court finds these limits to be appropriate to protect Plaintiff’s privacy interest in her medical and billing records not directly relevant to the issues in this action while also permitting Defendants the opportunity to conduct discovery into Plaintiff’s claimed injuries and any related pre-existing conditions. 


Both parties seek sanctions in the connection with the motion.  In ruling on a motion to quash, “the court may in its discretion award the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred in making or opposing the motion, including reasonable attorney's fees, if the court finds the motion was made or opposed in bad faith or without substantial justification or that one or more of the requirements of the subpoena was oppressive.”  (Code Civ. Proc., § 1987.2, subd. (a).)


            Here, the Court concludes that Plaintiff was justified in filing the motion because the subpoenas are overbroad, and Defendant was not justified in opposing the motion to quash for the reasons stated above. As such, the Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of reasonable expenses, and the Court will order that Defendant’s counsel of record, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, pay to Plaintiff reasonable expenses in the amount of $1860, which represents 6 hours of attorney time to prepare the moving and reply papers, and attend the hearing at $300 per hour, plus the filing fee of $60.  




The Court grants Plaintiff’s motion to quash and orders the subject medical and billing records subpoenas limited to records that concern Plaintiff’s knee, shoulder, low back (lumbar spine), elbow, right hip, sciatica, bilateral lower extremities, anxiety and obesity, for a period of ten years through the date of the underlying incident.


Further, the Court orders counsel for Defendant, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, to pay reasonable expenses of $1860 to Plaintiff, by and through counsel for Plaintiff, within 30 days of notice of the Court’s orders.  In addition, the Court denies Defendant’s request for reasonable expenses per Code of Civil Procedure section 1987.2.


Plaintiff shall give notice of the Court’s orders and file a proof of service of such.



[1] “A patient has a statutory privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, any confidential communication between the patient and a physician, or between the patient and a psychotherapist, absent waiver or some statutory exception to the privilege.  These privileges apply to discovery as well as to trial, and they preclude disclosure to the court as well as to the parties.”  (Simek v. Superior Court (1981) 117 Cal.App.3d 169, 173 [cleaned up].)  Specifically, the Evidence Code holds that “[t]he patient, whether or not a party, has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between patient and physician . . . .”  (Evid. Code, § 994; see also Evid. Code, § 1014 [“the patient, whether or not a party, has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent another from disclosing, a confidential communication between patient and psychotherapist”].)  However, the Evidence Code provides that “there is no privilege under this article as to any communication relevant to an issue concerning the condition of the patient if such issue has been tendered by” the patient or a patient-related party.  (See Evid. Code, § 996; see also Evid. Code, § 1016 [regarding a patient’s emotional or mental condition].) 


[2] “This initial inquiry is necessary to permit courts to weed out claims that involve so insignificant or de minimis an intrusion on constitutionally protected privacy interests as not even to require an explanation or justification by the defendant.”  (Lewis v. Superior Court (2017) 3 Cal.5th 561, 571 [cleaned up].)