A recent ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court may make it easier for aggrieved parties to link HIPAA violations to other state or federal legal frameworks which provide direct recourse for private individuals, say legal experts.
In Byrne v. Avery Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC, the Connecticut court reached two key conclusions, according to law firm Information Law Group:
*HIPAA does not preempt state common law causes of action for negligence and
*HIPAA regulations may be used to establish a standard of care for common law negligence causes of action.
Information Law Group senior counsel Mark Paulding says the case arose when the plaintiff asked her physician not to share her medical records with a former significant other. Contrary to the plaintiffs request, the physician provided her medical records to the former significant other in response to a subpoena without notifying the plaintiff or contesting the subpoena, in violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
"It remains to be seen whether the Connecticut courts conclude that the alleged unauthorized disclosures of health information resulted in cognizable harm," Paulding wrote in an Information Law Group blog post regarding the case. "However, the ruling takes a significant step toward creating a method for individuals to hold healthcare providers, insurers, and other organizations that handle health information liable for uses or disclosures that occur in violation of HIPAA."
While the Byrne decision is not binding outside the State of Connecticut, Paulding believes the reasoning may prove compelling to courts in other states. For example, he said, courts are generally reluctant to infer federal preemption in the absence of plain statutory language to that effect and HIPAA contains no clear preemption of common law negligence claims. More uncertain is the question of whether other states will permit the use of HIPAA as a standard of care for negligence claims.
"This may be highly dependent upon local precedent, but it is foreseeable that courts in a number of states may reach conclusions similar to the Connecticut Supreme Court," Paulding wrote.
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