The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, over a concurrence, and refusing to follow the Second Department, determined certain statements made in connection with a hospital’s (SUNY Upstate’s) quality assurance investigation were privileged pursuant to the Education Law and Public Health Law and therefore were not subject to discovery in this medical malpractice action:
“The New York State Education Law shields from disclosure the proceedings [and] the records relating to performance of a medical or a quality assurance review function or participation in a medical and dental malpractice prevention program’ ” ( … see Public Health Law § 2805-m ). Although there is an exception to that privilege, “the exception is narrow” … and is limited to “statements made by any person in attendance at such a [quality assurance] meeting who is a party to an action or proceeding the subject matter of which was reviewed at such meeting” (Education Law § 6527 ; see Public Health Law § 2805-m  …).
Here, the “statements” at issue were provided shortly after the incident and were obtained as part of SUNY Upstate’s quality assurance investigation. The statements, however, were not made at a quality assurance committee meeting; nor were they made in response to any inquiries initiated by the committee … . None of the defendants appeared at any committee meeting. Thus, we agree with SUNY Upstate and defendants that plaintiff’s proposed construction of the statutory exception would not give any practical effect to the phrase “in attendance,” but rather would render that phrase meaningless … . Further, the Court of Appeals specifically instructed that the exception is “narrow and limited to statements given at an otherwise privileged peer review meeting” … . Following plaintiff’s proposed construction “would extend the [statutory] exception to a point where it would swallow the general rule that materials used by a hospital in quality review and malpractice prevention programs are strictly confidential” … . Nowelle B. v Hamilton Med., Inc., 2019 NY Slip Op 05464, Fourth Dept 7-5-19