$853,000 Awarded to Patient Whose PHI Was Impermissibly Disclosed to Former Boyfriend

An 11-year lawsuit that was filed following the release of a woman’s medical records to her former boyfriend has finally come to an end and a jury has ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

Emily Byrne took legal action against Avery Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology in Westport, CT, following the release of her medical records to her former boyfriend’s attorneys. Emily Byrne broke up with her boyfriend, Andro Mendoza, after she discovered she was pregnant. Mendoza took legal action to obtain Byrne’s medical records. His attorneys issued a subpoena to Avery Center to release Byrne’s medical records and Avery Center complied.

According to Byrne’s lawsuit, Mendoza viewed her medical records and used the information to try to gain custody of the baby. The information was also allegedly also used to harass and extort money from Byrne.

The lawsuit claimed that as a result of the disclosure of her medical records, Byrne suffered emotional distress, trauma, and anxiety, was harassed by exposure to civil claims in federal district court, received threats from Mendoza of criminal charges, and suffered financial losses relating to legal fees and medical bills.

The lawsuit alleged a breach of contract, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and that the release of Byrne’s medical records constituted a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The case came before the Connecticut Supreme Court twice. Avery Center attempted to get the case dismissed as there is no private cause of action in HIPAA; however, the Supreme Court ruled that a patient who suffered harm as a result of a breach of medical confidentiality had a tort remedy. The case was then remanded to the Superior Court for trial.

Avery Center had previously attempted to settle the case for $100,000 but the offer was rejected. Byrne was pursuing $1,000,000 in damages: The maximum amount covered by the Avery Center’s insurance policy.

After six days of testimony, the 6-person jury at the Brigdeport Superior Court in Connecticut ruled in favor of the plaintiff and Byrne was awarded $853,000 in damages.

“The case created new law,” said Byrne’s attorney, Bruce Elstein. “The Supreme Court ruled a patient has a remedy for breaches of medical responsibility and that never occurred before.”

The Avery Center has until December 26, 2018, to launch an appeal.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.