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I just received a letter today from the hospital telling me…

I just received a...

I just received a letter today from the hospital telling me that on February 21, 2018, it came to their attention that discharge paperwork that contained my protected health information was given to another patient in error. The information contained my name, date of birth, medical record number, diagnosis and both visit and discharge data. They said the information was returned and shredded immediately. However, they are suggesting that I immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to request a copy of my credit report and/or place a fraud alert on my credit report. Their only correction to this situation was to educate the associate responsible. Right now, I am incensed. I feel violated because of their negligence in the proper handling of my personal information... My question is, can I sue them for this breach?

Lawyer's Assistant: Because consumer protection law varies from place to place, can you tell me what state this is in?

I am in Illinois

Lawyer's Assistant: What steps have you taken so far?

I just got the letter five minutes ago.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

Nothing other than the fact that this is the hospital where I scheduled to have surgery on April 6, 2018.

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Answered in 5 minutes by:
3/23/2018
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,280
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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I’m sorry to hear about your situation. You won't be able to sue them for the disclosure, but you could sue them if there is some harm that comes from this disclosure. I'll explain it in more detail below:

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act includes a Privacy Rule and is the law that protects people from having their private health care information disclosed without their consent. The Privacy Rule essentially says that “covered entities” (clinics, doctors, dentists, etc.) that are in possession of any health-related information (e.g. tests, medications, diagnosis, etc.) that personally identifies a person (e.g. has their name, address, and SSN, for example) is required to maintain the privacy of that information.

The only exceptions are if the patient authorizes the release of that information, the covered entities are sharing that information to provide for a patient’s care, or if the health information doesn’t personally identify the patient.

If there is a violation, then a person can click here to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is the Department of Health and Human Services’ enforcement arm. Please note that there is no private right to sue for a HIPPA violation; a person must go through OCR to make their complaint.

In your case, it seems clear that there was a HIPPA violation so you can always contact the OCR to find out more. However, if someone takes out a credit card in your name, for example, you could separately sue the hospital for negligence.

Negligence simply means that there was a duty that the other party owed and they breached that duty in some way. What is most important is that it is proven that the defendant breached their duty of care because that is what mostly determines whether there is a cause of action. Basically, the question is, “Did the defendant’s actions fall below the standard of care for a reasonable person in a similar situation?” If the answer to that question is yes, then there is negligence and you are entitled to damages. There must be some sort of damages you have to claim first before you bring a suit.

Did you have any other questions for me today that I could help you with?

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Customer reply replied 1 month ago
No, you have explained it quite clearly to me. I need to check my credit,etc. to make sure it has not been tampered with... Thank you for your help. It was well worth it.

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Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10,280
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle
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DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.

The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).

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