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Name: Conservatorship of S.A.
Case #: B284312
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 07/19/2018
Summary

The Public Guardian was authorized to use the conservatee’s medical and psychiatric records to prove the historical course of her mental disorder. Prior to the trial to determine whether S.A.’s conservatorship under the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act should be renewed, the Public Guardian subpoenaed S.A.’s medical records, and signed authorizations for the release of the records on S.A.’s behalf. Over S.A.’s objection, the records were introduced at trial, and the jury found S.A. gravely disabled. S.A. appealed, arguing her constitutional and statutory rights were violated when the Public Guardian signed an authorization for release of her medical records and then used the records against her at trial. Held: Affirmed. The LPS Act denies a conservatee the right to exclusive control of his or her medical records as a consequence of her preexisting conservatorship. The Public Guardian had a statutory duty to determine whether S.A.’s conservatorship should be reestablished and, if S.A. contested that determination (as she did here), to provide the jury with her psychiatric records to help it determine whether a conservatorship is appropriate. Under Evidence Code section 1158, medical providers are authorized to release a patient’s records upon written authorization signed by the conservator of her person or estate. Under Evidence Code sections 993 and 1013, a conservator is the holder of the psychotherapist-patient privilege and the physician-patient privilege when the patient has a conservator. Though confidential, such records may be disclosed in conjunction with the trial to determine whether the conservatee is gravely disabled. There was no error. [Editor’s Note: S.A. also raised several evidentiary challenges, in which the appellate court found no error.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B284312.PDF