from the St. Joseph Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
71D05-1002-DR-94 The Honorable Jenny Pitts Manier, Judge
Attorneys for Appellant David J. Karnes Michael G. Foley
Dennis, Wenger & Abrell P.C. Muncie, Indiana
Attorney for Appellee Gregory K. Blanford The Blanford Law
Office South Bend, Indiana
Summary and Issue
Meridian Health Services Corporation ("Meridian")
appeals the trial court's order finding it in contempt of
court for failure to comply with a subpoena duces tecum and
appear at a deposition and awarding attorney's fees as a
sanction pursuant to Indiana Trial Rules 26(C) and 37(A)(4).
Concluding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in
holding Meridian in contempt and ordering it to pay
attorney's fees, we affirm.
and Procedural History
In 2011, the trial court entered a decree dissolving the
marriage of Thomas Bell ("Father") and Angela Bell
("Mother"). The decree incorporated the
parties' agreement to share joint legal custody of their
child, K.B., with Mother having primary physical custody.
Father thereafter filed several motions to modify parenting
time. Ultimately, Mother and Father agreed to an alternate
parenting schedule, which the trial court approved on June
12, 2014. In the interim, Mother began taking K.B. to see a
therapist at Meridian.
In March 2015, Father's attorney contacted Meridian
requesting K.B.'s therapy records in reference to an
ongoing domestic relations matter. Meridian did not release
K.B.'s records at that time, indicating Father would need
to submit a signed medical release form. Prior to receiving
Father's release form, Meridian sought and received from
K.B.'s physician a letter stating it was "medically
necessary that the records of [K.B.'s] therapy sessions
not be released to her parents." Corrected
Appellant's Appendix at 33 (emphasis in original). The
letter dated April 2 explained,
Much of [K.B.]'s anxiety is related to stress within the
family. Because [K.B.] needs to be able to openly talk with
her therapist, she needs to be assured that her words cannot
be used against her . . . . It is medically very important
that [K.B.] continue in counseling and that she be confident
in the safety of her relationship with her therapist. Any
release of these records to [her] parent[s] could jeopardize
her care and her mental and physical health.
Meridian received Father's release form on May 14. Rather
than release K.B.'s records, Meridian responded on May 15
with a letter from its counsel noting it had received a
letter from K.B.'s physician stating "it is not in
the best interests of [K.B.] to have her records released to
her parents." Id. at 31. Meridian indicated it
would therefore release the records only upon the issuance of
a court order pursuant to the procedures set forth in Indiana
Code chapter 16-39-3:
I am sure that you are aware of the strict provisions within
both state and federal law for the disclosure of a
patient's mental health records especially in situations
where the patient has not consented. In addition, Indiana law
also provides for situations where the patient should not
even be permitted disclosure of their own mental health
records when it . . . would be detrimental to the physical
and mental health of the patient. See Ind. Code
§ 16-39-2-4. As such, we believe this physician letter
properly invokes the language within [section] 16-39-2-4 and
would restrict access to the patient based upon the advice
and concerns of the patient's physician that disclosure
would be detrimental to the physical or mental health of the
patient. Since the Indiana Code does not provide any
independent right to the parents of minor children to access
their [children's] mental health records other than the
ability to "exercise the patient's rights on the
patient's behalf" under Indiana Code Section
16-39-2-9, we believe the restrictions in Section 16-39-2-4
concerning disclosure when it would be detrimental to the
physical and mental health of the patient apply to a
parent's request on behalf of the minor patient . . . .
As such, it is my opinion that these records should not be
released to the parents pursuant to any executed Medical
Release or Authorization for Disclosures, but will be
released only upon the issuance of a court order pursuant to
the procedures set forth under Indiana Code [chapter 16-39-3]
for disclosure without consent of the patient.
Id. at 31-32. Around the same time, Mother filed a
petition to suspend Father's parenting time, alleging
Father emotionally abuses K.B. The trial court modified
Father's parenting time to telephone contact only pending
an evidentiary hearing set for July 21, 2015.
In preparation for that hearing, Father served a notice of
deposition on K.B.'s therapist, a subpoena duces tecum
for K.B.'s therapist to produce her "complete file
in regards to [K.B.]" at the deposition, and a
declaration of Father's compliance with the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
("HIPAA"). Id. at 27-30. Meridian received
the notice on July 9; the deposition was scheduled for July
16. On July 13, Meridian filed a motion to quash and motion
for protective order, arguing state and federal law
prohibited Meridian from disclosing the information to Father
without a court order. The court took no action on the motion
to quash prior to the scheduled deposition. After K.B.'s
therapist failed to appear for her deposition on July 16,
Father filed a motion for rule to show cause why K.B.'s
therapist should not be held in contempt, and the trial court
scheduled a hearing on both parties' motions.
K.B.'s physician and her therapist both testified at the
hearing held on September 8. K.B.'s physician examined
K.B. on two or three occasions prior to being contacted by
Meridian and writing the letter in April 2015, although she
could not say exactly when. As for the letter itself,
Q [W]hat was the reason for writing this letter?
A I had been contacted by Meridian that they-that
[K.B.'s] records were being requested. And it is our
position that the - what is said in a therapy session or in a
doctor's session is not releasable . . . .
The Court: When you say "our position" do you-can
you clarify what "our" means?
[Physician:] [I]t's the standard position of
* * *
Q [W]hat was the reasoning behind writing this letter?
A [T]here is stress between the parents. And whenever we see
stress and conflict between the parents, anything that puts
the child or the child's words between the parents is
detrimental to the child. So the fact that there is conflict
between the parents would mean that the child's words
should be protected so that the child is not put in between
in the conflict of those parents.
Q Did you feel like this child would not be able to continue
in therapy if she was required to have these records
A Therapy would at least-continued therapy-therapy would at
least be put in jeopardy.
Q And did you reflect that it was in your medical
professional opinion very important that this child continue
Transcript at 40, 44-45. Although K.B.'s physician
mentioned protective orders issued against Father as an
additional concern, she admitted she lacked personal
knowledge of any such orders:
[Meridian's Attorney] [D]o you know of anything outside
of your HIPAA restrictions that would make you believe that
the stressors in this situation were greater than any normal
A Yes. . . . The fact that we are aware of restraining orders
having been taken out.
The Court: Who's "we?"
A Our office.
Q What is your understanding of the restraining orders that
you're aware of?
A That there are restraining orders against the father with