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New York Giants Star and ESPN Agree to Settle Privacy Breach Lawsuit

A privacy breach lawsuit filed against ESPN by New York Giant’s defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has been amicably resolved. ESPN has agreed to settle the lawsuit, although the terms of the settlement have not been announced.

On July 4, 2015, Pierre-Paul was involved in a fireworks accident and sustained serious burns to his hand. He was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami to receive treatment for his injuries. News soon broke that the NFL star had been taken to hospital, although it was initially unclear what injuries had been sustained.

That was until details of the injuries were leaked to Schefter. Schefter sent a tweet containing a photograph of Pierre-Paul’s medical chart which showed Pierre-Paul had sustained serious damage to his hand that required the amputation of his index finger.

The disclosure and dissemination of Pierre-Paul’s medical charts involved a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), although not by Adam Schefter. While the HIPAA Privacy Rule prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of patients’ electronic protected health information, reporters are not HIPAA-covered entities and therefore are not required to abide by HIPAA Rules.

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However, the medical charts could only have come from the hospital where Pierre-Paul had received treatment and therefore were likely supplied by a hospital employee. Neither Schefter nor ESPN disclosed the source of the medical charts; however, and investigation into the privacy breach was launched by Jackson Memorial Hospital.

That investigation revealed that two employees at the hospital had inappropriately accessed Pierre-Paul’s medical records. Both employees were terminated for the HIPAA violation.

While the lawsuit has now been settled amicably, ESPN maintains the disclosure of Pierre-Paul’s medical information was “both newsworthy and journalistically appropriate.”

Legal representatives of Pierre-Paul claim the reporter and ESPN blatantly disregarded the private and confidential nature of Pierre-Paul’s medical records by disseminating the information on social media, just to show supporting proof that a surgical procedure had been performed.

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.