§55-7B-6a. Access to medical records.

(a) Within thirty days of the filing of an answer by a defendant in a medical professional liability action or, if there are multiple defendants, within thirty days following the filing of the last answer, the plaintiff shall provide each defendant and each defendant shall provide the plaintiff with access, as if a request had been made for production of documents pursuant to rule 34 of the rules of civil procedure, to all medical records pertaining to the alleged act or acts of medical professional liability which: (1) Are reasonably related to the plaintiff's claim; and (2) are in the party's control. The plaintiff shall also provide releases for such other medical records known to the plaintiff but not under his or her control but which relate to the plaintiff's claim. If the action is one alleging wrongful death, the records shall be for the deceased except inasmuch as the plaintiff alleges injury to himself or herself.

(b) Upon receipt and review of the records referred to in subsection (a) of this section, any party may make a written request to any other party for medical records of the plaintiff or the deceased related to his or her medical care and which are reasonably related to the plaintiff's claim. Such request shall be specific as to the type of record requested and shall be accompanied by a brief statement as to why its disclosure would be relevant to preparation of a claim or of a defense. The party receiving the request shall provide access to any such records under his or her control or a release for medical records for such records not under his or her control unless the party receiving the request believes that the records requested are not reasonably related to the claim.

(c) If a party receives a request for existing records he or she believes are not reasonably related to the claim, he or she shall provide written notice to the requesting party of the existence of such records and schedule a hearing before the court to determine whether access should be provided.

(d) If a party has reasonable cause to believe that medical records reasonably related to the claim of medical negligence exist and access have not been provided or a release has not been provided therefor, he or she shall give written notice thereof to the party upon whom the request is made, and if said records are not received within fourteen days of the written notice, obtain a hearing on the matter before the court.

(e) In the event a hearing is required pursuant to the provisions of subsection (c) or (d) of this section, the court at the conclusion thereof shall make a finding as to the reasonableness of the parties' request for or refusal to provide records and may assess costs pursuant to the rules of civil procedure.