Georgia Supreme Court rules Northside Hospital can't shield all financial records in fight over state open-records law

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Atlanta-based Northside Hospital can't bar public access to all financial records, overturning a lower court's decision, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.


The lawsuit was brought by plaintiff E. Kendrick Smith, who sought records from Northside's $100 million acquisition of four physician practices. When the hospital rejected his request, Mr. Smith sued.  

The case concerns whether the nonprofit hospital should be subject to Georgia's open-records law, Northside has argued is it not bound to the law because it's a private nonprofit organization, not a public entity. The lower court rulings agreed with Northside's stance arguing its financial records were not subject to disclosure.

Georgia Supreme Court justices opposed Nothside's postion regarding the open record laws, but the court also rejected the plaintiff's argument that all of the hospital's financial records should be public. Instead, they remanded the dispute back to the lower court for further proceedings to determine which specific financial documents should be public record.

Attorney Peter Canfield, who represented Mr. Smith, argued Northside Hospital is subject to the open record laws because it was created by a public hospital authority, which is a public entity and the system operates on the authority's behalf.  

"The corporation's operation of the hospital and other leased facilities is a service it performs on behalf of the [county's] agency, and so records related to that operation are public records," Georgia Supreme Court Justice Nels Peterson wrote in the ruling, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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