On Friday, a federal judge from Minnesota granted a motion to compel the National Hockey League to produce medical records in a multidistrict concussion lawsuit filed by former NHL players.
The NHL had previously refused to produce such documents unless specific players gave their consent, claiming the information was protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, physician-patient privilege, and the NHL collective bargaining agreement.
The judge opined that the disclosure of such information was permissible as long as identifying information was redacted, including player names, jersey numbers, and team names, and plaintiffs agreed to refrain from attempting to piece together the identity of the players based on the information given. The judge rationalized the ruling, stating:
Since the chief concern of the U.S. clubs and defendant is that the requested information will somehow be connected to an individual player, anonymizing information appropriately addresses this legitimate concern.
She also noted that HIPAA “contains a litigation-use exception” applicable to the case which allows for the disclosure of the requested information.
The case was initiated in October, 2014, and puts forth claims similar to those currently being litigated against the National Football League. The complaint raised issue with the NHL’s alleged lack of concern for its players’ health:
The NHL’s approach to player safety can correctly be called, at best, cavalier, and, at worst, non-existent, as the NHL supports and promotes a highly calculated, profit-driven philosophy, spearheaded by the promotion of the NHL’s hyper-aggressive, unnecessarily violent style of play that leads directly to players suffering traumatic brain injuries.