Hospital Sues Newspaper Over FOIA Screwup

     VISTA, Calif. (CN) – A North San Diego County hospital district wants to stop the San Diego Union-Tribune from publishing “privileged and confidential communications” it accidentally sent to the newspaper in response to a public records request.
     Tri-City Healthcare District seeks an injunction forcing the newspaper to return documents “inadvertently” sent by mail earlier this month.
     Tri-City says it realized its mistake 5 days after sending the records, and asked the Tribune to send back the documents and destroy any copies.
     “Thereafter, on September 12, 2011, the SDUT notified the district that it intended to publish confidential and privileged information and documents which it obtained from the district through inadvertent disclosure in response to the request and which are protected by the attorney client privilege,” according to the Superior Court complaint.
     Tri-City says it spent the next two days trying to retrieve the records, and asked the paper not to publish any articles based on their contents.
     “Although the SDUT indicated that it was not going to do anything with the confidential material at least until the district responded to the request, SDUT indicated its position could change at any time. More importantly, SDUT would not agree to return the records and would not agree that the district’s inadvertent disclosure was not a waiver of the privilege,” the complaint states.
     But that’s not all: Tri-City claims the Union Tribune “used the information, thoughts, and mental impressions contained in the privileged communications to make another Public Records Act request,” asking for any emails in which Tri-City CEO Larry Anderson mentioned the newspaper or its reporters.
     “Beginning on or about September 12, 2011, and continuing to the present time, the SDUT wrongfully and unlawfully infringed upon the district’s right to assert its right to and prevent the use and disclosure of information and documents protected by the attorney-client privilege delineated in Evidence Code section 954 and Government Code section 6254(k),” the complaint states.
     The complaint does not disclose the nature of the documents’ contents.
     Tri-City’s attorney Robin Wofford declined to comment.
     Tri-City seeks a temporary restraining order, injunction, unspecified damages and specific recovery of personal property.
     The Union-Tribune did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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