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Court: State agency can withhold records during appeal

Posted by: Brandon Stahl under Public records Updated: September 16, 2013 - 12:51 PM

Despite a judge's ruling that its records are public, the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association can continue to keep them secret as it appeals its lawsuit against the Star Tribune.

District court Judge Margaret Marrinan ruled Friday that the state-created insurance fund doesn't have to immediately turn over its records to the Star Tribune, reversing a ruling she made in August. 

Marrinan has determined that the MJUA, which insures only high-risk providers, was subject to the state's open records laws because it was created for a public purpose by a public body. Marrinan's decision came after the MJUA sued the Star Tribune to prevent a release of records. 

The MJUA went back to Marrinan on Sept. 4 to seek a stay of that ruling, arguing that it wanted to take the case to the state Court of Appeals, but to give its records over to the Star Tribune in the meantime would make the case moot. 

Marrinan agreed.

"Although the public may well be entitled to the information," Marrinan wrote, "the timing of its release does not appear to be a factor so crucial that the motion of the [MJUA's] should be denied."

The Star Tribune reported in May that the MJUA has spent at least $32 million over the last decade to settle claims, including $12 million to resolve 169 claims filed against health care providers, some of whom were accused of crippling or killing their patients.

Because most MJUA policyholders have to prove they can’t get insurance from the private market, critics contend the MJUA keeps bad providers in business. Supporters of the group say it provides an essential protection for consumers to allow them to recover damages from providers in the case of harm or negligence.


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