Defense attorneys may ask courts to waive medical confidentiality rules and allow them to conduct ex parte interviews with physicians about the treatment of plaintiffs involved in medical malpractice actions, the New York Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The issue of the legality of the ex parte conversations began cropping up in New York litigation in 2003, when confidentiality provisions took effect under the 1996 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Tuesday’s ruling was the first time the Court of Appeals had considered the issue.

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