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When Can Medical Providers Be Held Liable for Improperly Releasing Your Medical Records?

When you visit the doctor, medical records are created that document your visit and what occurred. These can be accessed by you at home, or by your doctor if necessary. These records are protected by HIPPA and people who are not authorized to access your records cannot see them. If someone does gain unauthorized access through the hospital, they might be liable for a lawsuit.

They could be held liable under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. This also could be similar to the case Henry v. Community Healthcare Systems, which has been previously blogged about on this site. This case extended a duty of care to hospitals and doctors when they deal with patient’s medical records. The tort of disclosure, which states that if a medical provider releases medical records without the consent of a patient the provider is liable for damages, does not exist in Indiana. However, the above case gave people a chance to recover damages when their records have been released without their consent.

A case recently decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals has furthered this type of tort, discussing unauthorized access to someone’s medical records.

The Case: Community Health Network v. McKenzie

This case involves the unauthorized access of several people’s medical records by an employee at Community Health Network. The person working for the defendant, Community Health, had improperly accessed the medical records of several people for several months in 2013. The plaintiffs argued that Community was liable under a theory of respondeat superior, that they were liable for the conduct of their employee, because they were negligent in training and supervision. The plaintiffs in this case also cited Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act.

The Court looked at the arguments made by Community stating that because the person who accessed the medical records without authorization was doing so for personal reasons, that Community could not be held liable under respondeat superior and stated that because the conduct of the worker occurred using work equipment and was within her duties at work, that the respondeat superior claim could go forward.

Next, the court looked at the claims that Community should not be held liable under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act. Community argued that it did appropriately train and supervise the worker, and that the plaintiffs had failed to show any injury that resulted from the workers actions. However, the court noted that the plaintiffs had in fact shown evidence that Community had failed to train or supervise its workers properly, and that injury could have resulted. The Court held that the negligence claims against Community could go forward in this case.

What Does This Mean?

This case stands for the position that a medical provider must properly train and supervise their employees, and in the event that they do not, and someone improperly accesses medical records, the medical provider could be held liable for negligence. The tort of disclosure still does not apply in Indiana, so if you believe your medical records have been improperly accessed, you must go this route, and cannot claim that your medical records were disclosed.

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    It cost $0 up front to hire our office. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us if we settle your case or obtain a verdict on your behalf.

    If we’re unable to obtain a settlement of verdict for you we eat the costs we’ve advanced to litigate your case, which includes costs for ordering medical records, filing your case, hiring experts, deposing witnesses, and many other things.

    If we do settle your case or obtain a verdict for you our standard rate is 33% of the settlement or verdict, plus reimbursement for the expense we’ve previously advanced. Our fee never increases like some personal injury attorneys, even if we have to take your case to trial.

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