MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) – The Alabama Supreme Court has granted a petition filed by a doctor who didn't feel required to turn over a sexual abuse complaint to a separate patient who sued him.
The court on Sept. 1 ruled in favor of Dr. Eyston A. Hunte, who had asked it to overturn a previous ruling by the Mobile County Circuit Court.
The Supreme Court ruling said patient Lisa S. Johnson filed a lawsuit against the doctor and his practice on July 21, 2014, alleging that she was sexually abused by Hunte during a July 23, 2012 “routine health exam.”
As part of her case, Johnson asked Hunte and the practice to turn over “each and every claim or complaint that has been made against [Hunte] by a patient for assault or inappropriate touching,” according to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.
However, Hunte objected to the discovery request, claiming that the complaint in question was legally protected information.
“Hunte and EAH admitted that Hunte possessed a document responsive to Johnson’s request for production - a written complaint submitted to the (Alabama Board of Medical Examiners) in 2001 by a former patient,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.
“They argued, however, that this document was not discoverable because, among other reasons, it was privileged" under Alabama code.
After Hunte provided the lower court with a sealed version of the requested document for its review, the Mobile Circuit Court denied Hunte’s motion for an order precluding the previous complaint from discovery.
Hunte appealed that ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court, which agreed with Hunte that the 2001 complaint was deemed privileged under Alabama law.
“We conclude that Hunte and EAH have shown a clear right to an order protecting the 2001 complaint in Hunte and EAH's possession from discovery,” the Supreme Court said.