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Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  16 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 26 yrs
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My son was brought to the hospital and recognized by an EMT

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My son was brought to the hospital and recognized by an EMT who happened to be in the emergency area who greeted him and asked him what happened. He said lots to explain. She then went back to two ambulance companies and seemed to have found out his medical information from ? the computer at the hospital or a hospital employee. She told multiple other EMTs that he suffered from depression and had a psychiatric history. My son is also an EMT. How would you advise him to proceed. I know as a physician myself that she as a healthcare provider has violated HIPPA as has the hospital and her ambulance company. She was in no way involved with his care.
Hello and thank you for using JA! My goal is to provide you with excellent service and help with your legal problem.
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If son is sure that the other person somehow accessed his medical records and didn't already know this information from knowing your son, then he can file a formal complaint for a HIPAA violation with the US Dept of Health and Human Services. As you are aware, HIPAA has a privacy component, which it seems clear to me that this EMT violated if she accessed his records and disclosed protected health information. While the health care provider who employs her can be fined up to $50,000 for a violation, unfortunately there is no private cause of action under HIPAA.
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Howerver, son could have a cause of action for publication of private information. Elements of the tort include (1) publication, (2) absent any waiver or privilege, (3) of private matters in which the public has no legitimate concern, (4) so as to bring shame or humiliation to a person of ordinary sensibilities.

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The Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 652D, at 383 (1977), articulates the tort of public disclosure of private facts by stating that "(o)ne who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the matter publicized is of a kind that (a) would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public."

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Son would need to contact a local civil litigation attorney to discuss the case and what type of damages he could sue for. Since this was a willful act, it is likely that punitive damages would apply to set an example for this behavior and discourage future similar conduct.

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Thanks.

Barrister

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If you need further help, just reply to me via the “REPLY” button and I will be happy to continue.

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I cannot enter into an attorney client relationship, this is a public forum, and all posts are available for public viewing. There is no duty of confidentiality that attaches to any posts. The information provided is not a substitute for a local attorney’s legal advice.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Is the hospital liable and can they be sued for sharing his medical history either via his records or via one of their employees? Could he also sue the employee who made the information available to the EMT?

Is the hospital liable and can they be sued for sharing his medical history either via his records or via one of their employees?
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If the person was somehow able to access the records with permission from the hospital, then this might be a HIPAA violation, but wouldn't make the hospital personally liable. The person who is personally liable is the one who actually disclosed this private health information. However, if they were in the course of their employment when they accessed the information and disclosed it, then their employer could be held responsible under the doctrine of "respondeat superior". This is a legal doctrine that basically says an employer can be held responsible for the actions of their employees.
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So if the hospital is the employer of the EMT that disclosed this information, then yes, they could be held liable as well. But if not, then it would just be the EMT's employer who could be on the hook for damages.
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Thanks.

Barrister

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If you need further help, just reply to me via the “REPLY” button and I will be happy to continue.

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I cannot enter into an attorney client relationship, this is a public forum, and all posts are available for public viewing. There is no duty of confidentiality that attaches to any posts. The information provided is not a substitute for a local attorney’s legal advice.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. I have one more question. It appears that several EMTs then passed on this information to other EMTS. Are they liable for passing on private information?

After the one EMT disclosed it, then the subsequent EMTs wouldn't have had any duty of confidentiality since this would essentially have been third party gossip from that point on and that wouldn't be actionable against them. It is the initial disclosure that would be actionable.
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Thanks.

Barrister

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If you need further help, just reply to me via the “REPLY” button and I will be happy to continue.

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I cannot enter into an attorney client relationship, this is a public forum, and all posts are available for public viewing. There is no duty of confidentiality that attaches to any posts. The information provided is not a substitute for a local attorney’s legal advice.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Really. As a physician if I told other healthcare professionals information that I had heard from another professional about a patient with out the


patient"s permission even if I wasn't the treating physician I believe that I would be liable for spreading information protected under HIPPA. Isn't different if you are a healthcare professional and not just a lay person?

Yes, they would still be covered entities but since they might not have obtained the information from a protected medical record, this would probably not be a HIPAA violation. If the one EMT told the other EMTs "Hey, I heard that Son had been treated for XXXX" then this is gossip and would likely not be actionable.
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Now if the one EMT told the other EMTs that "Hey, I looked up Son's medical records and he has been treated for XXX", then I would agree that this would be protected and could subject them to liablility since the umbrella of confidentiality would then extend to them as well.
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Thanks.

Barrister

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If you need further help, just reply to me via the “REPLY” button and I will be happy to continue.

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I cannot enter into an attorney client relationship, this is a public forum, and all posts are available for public viewing. There is no duty of confidentiality that attaches to any posts. The information provided is not a substitute for a local attorney’s legal advice.

Barrister and 3 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

By definition I am sure that she said I was in the ER when son arrived and heard from treating EMT or the ER xxx. I think that this makes it obvious that she is disclosing protected information.


 


Son contacted her ambulance employer, was there any advantage in doing that? They said that they would investigate. Should I call Cornell and complain or just look for a lawyer?

Son contacted her ambulance employer, was there any advantage in doing that? They said that they would investigate. Should I call Cornell and complain or just look for a lawyer?
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I think that both actions would just be serving to "show your hand" to them and give them cause to "lawyer up" and get everyone on the same page to deny everything.
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So if it were me, I would go directly to an employment law attorney or civil litigation attorney to sit down to discuss the best way to proceed with filing suit.
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Thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

thank you

You are very welcome. Hope I helped a bit.
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Thanks
Barrister