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Law Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit After Being Charged Excessive Fees for Copy of Patient’s Medical Records

A law firm is taking legal action against the healthcare release-of-information solution provider, Medical Records Online (MRO), for alleged overcharging for providing electronic copies of patients’ medical records.

The lawsuit was filed by Cipriani & Werner of Pittsburgh in federal court in Camden, NJ. The lawsuit relates to MRO charges for providing a copy of a patient’s medical records for a personal injury case against the retailer Kohl’s, which the law firm represents.

Cipriani & Werner obtained the medical records of the plaintiff in the suit from John F. Kennedy Medical Center, in Edison, NJ, and was charged $528 by MRO for 518 pages of the plaintiff’s medical records. The law firm was charged a $10 search fee and $1 per page, even though the records were provided electronically as a PDF file.

Cipriani & Werner alleges MRO violated the New Jersey Declaratory Judgement Act by charging unlawful fees well in excess of the maximum limit. A claim was also made under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act for unconscionable commercial practices, and for a breach of New Jersey common law for a breach of contract for a violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

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The New Jersey Administrative Code allows a $10 search fee to be charged for providing copies of medical records to third parties, a charge of $1 per page, and the actual cost of postage and media for sending the records (e.g. a CD). Cipriani & Werner claims the charge should have solely consisted of a $10 search fee and no per-page fee should have been charged as the records were not printed.

The lawsuit states, “Regardless of whether MRO was providing copies of only a few pages of records or hundreds of pages, the cost to MRO of copying electronically stored records and transmitting them to the purchaser took the same amount of time and effort.” Cipriani & Werner suggests the entire process took less than 5 minutes.

Law firm, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis of Cherry Hill, NJ, which represents MRO, maintains fee were entirely lawful and were in line with state regulations.

The lawsuit references a 2015 memo from the New Jersey State Department which forbids medical record providers from charging per-page fees for electronically transmitted copies of medical records and for per-page charges to be applied when records are sent to purchasers through computer equipment. However, in this case the state department memo does not apply as the department of Health in New Jersey does not have any authority over MRO and the memo did not go through official rule-making processes in the State of New Jersey.

The class members are primarily attorneys and insurance companies who purchased copies of electronic medical records from MRO from September 2015 to February 2020, who were similarly charged for electronic copies of medical records in civil cases. The lawsuit only names MRO, not any healthcare providers that use MRO for managing requests for medical records.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.