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PA Federal Court Tosses Dr.’s Claim for Drilling Information (Again)

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Act 13 permits Pennsylvania health care professionals to learn the specific identity and amount of any chemicals in any oil-and-gas-related process that the health care professional determines to be “necessary for emergency treatment” during a “medical emergency.”  Nephrologist Alfonzo Rodriguez sued various Pennsylvania officials in federal district court challenging the Act’s prohibition of the health care professional making any use of any such information “for purposes other than the health needs asserted” and the Act’s requirement that “the health professional shall maintain the information as confidential.”  Plaintiff asserted that ethical rules of his profession impose upon him a professional and ethical obligation to communicate critical data and information obtained in the course of treating patients to other medical doctors, researchers, and the general public. 

The case was originally dismissed without prejudice in 2013.  A new complaint was filed, and the defendants again moved to dismiss the action.

On June 30, 2014, the District Court for the Middle District again dismissed Rodriguez’s claim on the grounds that he lacked standing.  The Court held that the plaintiff “failed to allege that he has not been able to practice medicine adequately without the information or that he has made any specific attempt to obtain information about hydraulic fracturing fluid for the treatment of his patients.” The Court also held that even if a court were to declare the disclosure restrictions unconstitutional, the plaintiff would still lack the information he seeks, rendering the alleged injury non-redressible.  Read the complete decision.

Although this decision indicates that the disclosure restrictions on confidential information under Act 13 are not under immediate threat, it does not foreclose the possibility of future challenges to the restrictions by plaintiff or other potential challengers.

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