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Gerguis v. Statesboro HMA Medical Group, LLC

Court of Appeals of Georgia

March 18, 2015

GERGUIS et al.
v.
STATESBORO HMA MEDICAL GROUP, LLC

Reconsideration denied April 8, 2015 -- Cert. applied for.

HIPAA. Bulloch Superior Court. Before Judge Woodrum.

Chilivis, Cochran, Larkins & Bever, Anthony L. Cochran, Franklin, Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes & Marsh, Daniel B. Snipes, for appellants.

Thomerson Macchiaverna Smith & Freeman, Michael J. Thomerson, for appellee.

MILLER, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Dillard, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 228

Miller, Judge.

After having sold their private practice to Statesboro HMA Medical Group (" HMA" ), Drs. John and Angela Gerguis (collectively " the Doctors" ) left their employment with HMA. Thereafter, the Doctors sought an emergency injunction ordering HMA to provide them, and their new medical practice, with copies of all of the electronic patient medical records that they had previously sold to HMA. Following a hearing, the trial court issued an interlocutory injunction denying the Doctors' request for medical records for patients who had not specifically authorized the disclosure of their records, but ordering HMA to provide the Doctors with paper and electronic [331 Ga.App. 868] copies of all records for patients who had provided such authorizations. The Doctors appeal, contending that the trial court erred: (1) in failing to allow the Doctors copies of all patient records pursuant to their contract with HMA; (2) in interpreting the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (" HIPAA" ) to prohibit the Doctors from obtaining copies of all patient records; and (3) in permitting HMA to provide the Doctors with paper, rather than electronic, copies of records. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

An interlocutory injunction is a device used to maintain the status quo of the parties pending final adjudication of the case and should not be granted except in clear and urgent cases where there is a vital necessity to prevent a party from being damaged and left without a remedy.

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Drawdy CPA Svcs. v. North GA CPA Svcs., 320 Ga.App. 759, 760-761 (740 S.E.2d 712) (2013). We will not disturb a trial court's decision to grant or deny an interlocutory injunction absent a manifest abuse of discretion. See Owens v. Ink Wizard Tattoos, 272 Ga. 728 (533 S.E.2d 722) (2000).

The Doctors are primary care physicians practicing in Statesboro. Beginning in 2003, the Doctors and their staff used NextGen, an electronic medical records program, to create and maintain patient records. The Doctors sold their practice to HMA in 2011 and agreed to become HMA employees. As part of the sale, the Doctors transferred to HMA the electronic patient records that they and their staff had created. The Doctors continued to use NextGen to create and maintain medical records during their employment with HMA. The Doctors' NextGen system contained medical records for approximately 5,000 patients.

The employment agreements between the Doctors and HMA specifically provided that HMA would be " the custodian and owner of all patient records" ; the records would remain on HMA property at all times during and after the Doctors' employment; and the Doctors would not remove the records from their office or the hospital without HMA's prior approval. The Doctors and HMA also entered into a Medical Records Custody Agreement (the " Agreement" ), which provided:

HMA will own and retain custody of the Medical Records and agrees to maintain such Medical Records in accordance with applicable standards and laws of the State ...

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