Schulten, Ward & Turner, L.L.P. v. Fulton-Dekalb Hospital Authority

535 S.E.2d 243 (2000)

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Schulten, Ward & Turner, L.L.P. v. Fulton-Dekalb Hospital Authority

Georgia Supreme Court
535 S.E.2d 243 (2000)

LJ

Facts

Schulten, Ward & Turner L.L.P. (the law firm) (plaintiff) submitted an open-records request to the Fulton-Dekalb Hospital Authority (the hospital) (defendant), seeking records from 1995 through the present concerning certain types of Medicare claims. The hospital stated that it was not required to create new documents or reports in order to respond to the law firm’s request. The hospital later denied the law firm’s request in its entirety, also citing the medical-records exemption under Georgia’s open-records law, determining that even if records did exist, they would be exempt from public disclosure. The open-records law provided that a public officer or agency had no duty to create a record that did not already exist and that, for the purposes of the open-records law, public records were documents and other material that were prepared and maintained in the regular course of a public body’s operation. The law firm filed a mandamus action with the trial court. The hospital moved for summary judgment, stating that the records requested by the law firm were not subject to the open-records act. Specifically, the hospital asserted that because it would have to audit accounts and compile information in order to respond to the request, it would be required to create a new public record that did not already exist through its regular business operations. The trial court found in favor of the hospital and denied the law firm’s request, stating that the law firm did not clearly demonstrate that the requested information was a public record. The law firm appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Carley, J.)

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