These are subpoenas for physical objects. In the context of personal injury
litigation, they typically request the production of medical records, calendars,
office diaries, X rays, and any other physical record that concerns the medical
care of a specified person. Subpoenas for any relevant records are usually sent
to persons who are scheduled to give depositions. The records are usually
those of the plaintiff, but an attorney may issue a subpoena for the records of
any person whose medical condition is at issue in the lawsuit. In some
situations, such as toxic exposure litigation, the records of many patients may
be subpoenaed. The attorney is not allowed to keep the subpoenaed records
but may inspect them and make copies.
Attorneys usually do not issue a subpoena for records without first attempting
to obtain them through informal means. Since subpoenas may be issued
without the approval of the court, medical care practitioners should ensure that
they are valid before releasing records by calling the issuing attorney and
determining the circumstances of the case. In most states now, a subpoena for
medical records should include a signed release by the patient. If the attorney
is requesting records for persons other than his or her client, the physician may
want to ask his or her own attorney to investigate the validity of the request.
In cases that involve records with special legal protection (such as patients in a
substance abuse treatment program) it may be necessary to request that the
court deny (quash) the subpoena or restrict access to the records. The court
may order that all patient identifiers be removed, or that the records be given
to the judge, rather than the requesting attorney.