The Northern District of California recently held that medical records are not discoverable in Fair Credit Reporting Act cases when a plaintiff only generally alleges that he or she suffered emotional harm. In Prado v. Equifax Information Services, LLC, the plaintiff claimed Equifax mixed up her credit report with that of her sister, whose report contained several negative items. Prado claimed that because of the mix-up, her credit card companies lowered her credit limits and denied her requests to have the original limits reinstated. Prado claimed Equifax violated the FCRA by failing to adequately respond to her disputes. In her suit, she did not assert a separate claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
During discovery, Equifax served a request for production seeking all documents relating to “any medical or mental treatments” Prado “received in the past seven years.” Prado objected to the request on the grounds that it was overly broad, irrelevant, and an invasion of her privacy. In response to her objection, Equifax argued the medical records were relevant based on the emotional distress allegation. Moreover, Equifax argued that it was not seeking a medical examination.
The Court sustained Prado’s objections, relying on other similar decisions from its district. The Court noted that where a plaintiff alleges general “garden variety” distress without a separate claim for emotional distress and does not intend to use an expert or medical records to prove emotional-distress damages, she does not place her medical history so at issue to warrant compelling production of her medical records.” The Court further noted that “delving” into a plaintiff’s medical or psychiatric records may be “even more invasive than conducting a medical or psychological examination.”
This decision is an example of why it is important to know each Court’s case law on discrete discovery issues. While the result may have been different in another court, it is clear, at least for now, that the Northern District of California is not going to allow defendants access to a plaintiff’s medical records in FCRA cases unless the plaintiff has asserted a separate and distinct claim for emotional distress. Other courts have reached a different conclusion on this issue.