Supreme Court protects from FOIA disclosure litigation files of attorneys for state-employed physicians

In a unanimous decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a plaintiff law firm’s attempt to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the confidential litigation files of the firm which had represented state employed physicians in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff’s law firm  sent a FOIA request to Mariam Hopkins, demanding that she produce her litigation files prepared in the course of representing three UAMS physicians. The Court rejected the argument that the files were subject to FOIA, because the physicians’ malpractice insurance premiums had been paid with state funds. In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court confirmed that “Mariam Hopkins and Anderson, Murphy & Hopkins were private attorneys who were hired by, were paid by, and reported to the private medical-malpractice liability carrier of the doctors” and that “the doctors sued in the underlying medical-malpractice claim were sued in their personal capacity.” The Court concluded that “[t]he records requested here are simply not public records subject to disclosure under the FOIA.” Mariam Hopkins and Mark Wankum were involved in this case on behalf of the firm. The opinion can be found here.

 

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