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AMLA - Discovery - § 6-5-551, Ala. Code 1975

Ex parte BBH BMC, LLC, [Ms. 1180961, Jan. 24, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Bolin, J.; Shaw, Wise, Bryan, and Sellers, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., and Mendheim and Stewart, JJ., concur specially; Mitchell, J., concurs in the result) grants Brookwood Baptist Medical Center’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order compelling Brookwood to respond to certain interrogatories and requests for production.

While a patient at Brookwood’s outpatient voluntary psychiatric treatment program, the plaintiff’s decedent jumped to her death from a parking deck on the premises of the medical center. In the wrongful death action, the plaintiff alleged that despite actual notice from two previous suicides, Brookwood breached the standard of care by failing to take measures to erect physical barriers or other deterrents to prevent suicide. Ms. *3. Plaintiff also asserted a premises liability count. Ibid.

The discovery sought information as to possible changes to the parking deck considered by Brookwood after the two previous suicides and information as to why no changes were made. Ms. *6. In his response to the mandamus petition, the plaintiff waived any argument based on his separate and independent count alleging premises liability. Ms. *10-11.

The Court held that because of the plaintiff’s concession, his complaint, solely one for medical malpractice under the AMLA, is governed by § 6-5-551. The statute provides in pertinent part that “any party shall be prohibited from conducting discovery with regard to any other act or omission or from introducing at trial evidence of any other act or omission.” The Court held that because

Gaston alleges that Brookwood’s failure ‘to erect physical barriers or provide other deterrents like geo-fencing and landscaping to prevent suicide’ was a breach of the standard of care Brookwood owed Donna. Whether changes had been considered and made or not made to the parking deck in the past is contingent, at least in part, on the facts underlying the earlier suicides. Any such considerations and determinations were in response to the earlier suicides and constitute “act[s] or omission[s]” with regard to the earlier suicides. Therefore, this information is not available in determining whether Brookwood provided a safe setting for Donna’s care on the day of the incident.

Ms. *14.

Justice Mendheim’s special concurrence, joined by Chief Justice Parker and Justice Stewart, asserts that had the plaintiff not conceded that his premises liability count was not relevant to the Court’s consideration of Brookwood’s mandamus petition, the premises liability count would have supported the circuit court’s order allowing the discovery concerning the prior suicides.

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