Court: Patients Can Sue over HIPAA Breaches

November 14, 2014 – In The News
Skin and Allergy News

Michael Kline was quoted in the Skin and Allergy News article, “Court: Patients Can Sue over HIPAA Breaches.” Full text can be found in the November 14, 2014, issue, but a synopsis is below.

On November 11, 2014 the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that patients can sue doctors for negligence after alleged patient privacy breaches.

The court concluded that HIPAA does not preempt claims for emotional distress or negligence under state law. The ruling sets precedence in Connecticut and will likely encourage plaintiffs to raise similar claims in other states, according to Fox attorney, Michael J. Kline.

“It’s a momentous case, and I think it’s serious for physician practices,” said Mr. Kline. “It can set the stage for plaintiffs’ attorneys within given states to pursue class actions for emotional distress or invasion of privacy on the grounds there was negligence” in connection to HIPAA violations.

Similar decisions have been made by other courts, but the Connecticut ruling is the first state Supreme Court to issue such a ruling, noted Kline.

The similar assertions by Connecticut judges that HIPAA does not preempt state rights and can also be used as a standard for what constitutes negligence or improper care of records is concerning for health providers, Kline explained. Doctors now have to worry that inadvertent HIPAA violations may yield not only a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, but a potential malpractice suit, as well.

“I would not be surprised if a case like this or even this case is appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States,” said Kline. “It is still a question of federal law, and what does the federal preemption mean?”

This article was also featured in Hospitalist News, Family Practice News and Internal Medicine News.