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A class action lawsuit filed in the wake of an employee-related data breach at Flowers Hospital in Dothan, Alabama in 2014 is heading towards being settled. The settlement has yet to receive final court approval, although approval seems likely and a resolution to this four-year legal battle is now in sight.
In contrast to most class action lawsuits filed over the exposure/theft of PHI, this case involved the theft of data by an insider rather than a hacker. Further, the former employee used PHI for identity theft and fraud and was convicted of those crimes.
The breach in question involved a former lab technician, Kamarian D. Millender, who was found in possession of paper records containing patients protected health information. Millender admitted to using the information for identity theft and for filing false tax returns in victims’ names. In December 2014, Millender was sentenced to serve two years in jail.
In the class action lawsuit, filed the same year, it was claimed that between June 2013 and December 2014, paper records were left unprotected and unguarded at the hospital and could have been taken by employees or third parties. In the case of Millender, that is exactly what happened.
Flowers Hospital attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, although that attempt failed and the lawsuit was awarded class action status in 2017. The decision has now been taken to settle the case. The hospital has offered a fund of up to $150,000 to cover out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the 1,208 victims of the breach. The settlement would provide each class member with up to $250 each, although claims up to a total value of $5,000 would be considered.
In order to be eligible to receive the compensation, class members would need to submit valid claims. A valid claim would require a breach victim to prove that they purchased credit monitoring or identity theft protection services in response to being notified about the breach.
Additionally, breach victims would be allowed to claim money for the time they spent arranging those services – up to four hours of documented lost time – the cost of obtaining credit reports, and any un-reimbursed interest as a result of a delayed tax refund as a result of there being a fraudulent tax return filed between June 2013 and the claims deadline. The settlement does not include any punitive damages.
In the event that valid claims are received, and the total claims amount exceeds the allocated $150,000, all claims would be reduced, pro rata, so that the total claims value would not exceed $150,000.