United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Hughes seeks information identifying patients who did
business at the Prattville Wal-Mart Pharmacy Counter on July
6, 2016, and who may have heard Michael Harris's alleged
defamation of Hughes. Wal-Mart refused to turn over that
information in discovery, so Hughes filed a Motion to Compel.
(Doc. # 48.) The Magistrate Judge granted the Motion to
Compel. (Docs. # 56, 57.)
objects to the Magistrate Judge's orders. (Doc. # 58.) It
argues that the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Pub. L. No. 104-191, and
the Rules of the Alabama Board of Pharmacy, Ala. Admin. Code
§ 680-x-2.22, shield the identities of Wal-Mart's
pharmacy patients from discovery. (Docs. # 51, 58.) The court
has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's order and finds it is
not “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). In fact, the order would survive
de novo review.
seeks to discover individually identifiable health
information that federal regulations consider protected under
HIPAA. See 45 C.F.R. § 160.103 (2017). And
generally, Wal-Mart may not disclose protected health
information. Id. § 164.502(a). But there are
exceptions to that general rule. Id. §
exception, found in 45 C.F.R. § 164.512(e), permits the
disclosure of protected health information during judicial
(1) Permitted disclosures. A covered entity may
disclose protected health information in the course of any
judicial or administrative proceeding:
(i) In response to an order of a court or administrative
tribunal, provided that the covered entity discloses only the
protected health information expressly authorized by such
(ii) In response to a subpoena, discovery request, or other
lawful process, that is not accompanied by an order of a
court or administrative tribunal, if . . .
(B) The covered entity receives satisfactory
assurance, as described in paragraph (e)(1)(iv) of this
section, from the party seeking the information that
reasonable efforts have been made by such party to secure a
qualified protective order that meets the requirements of
paragraph (e)(1)(v) of this section.
Id. § 164.512(e).
The “qualified protective order” mentioned in
§ 164.512(e)(1)(ii)(B) is “an order of a court . .
. or a stipulation by the parties to the litigation”
(A) Prohibits the parties from using or disclosing the
protected health information for any purpose other than the
litigation or proceeding for which such information was
(B) Requires the return to the covered entity or destruction
of the protected health information (including all copies
made) at the ...