My daughter-in-law works at a community hospital where we go for emergency care. My daughter has a seizure disorder and I have had kidney stones among other things. My son called and started saying things to the both of us about various hospitalizations. The only way he would have known any of this would have been through his wife at the hospital. We wrote a letter to the Privacy and Compliance Officer at the hospital. We both got a form letter back saying she did read our records many times but no sensitive information was obtained. I wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services. They wrote back and told me an audit was done and this employee did indeed read my entire medical record and my daughter's and was sanctioned. Can I sue the hospital? This has caused havoc.
HIPAA (the federal law) does not provide a "private right of action" for privacy violations; only the HHS or DOJ can sue under HIPAA.
However, Massachusetts has its own statutes designed to protect your privacy and to sanction those who invade it. See, e.g., MGL c.214, s.1B, and Massachusetts' Safeguard of Personal Information Regulation, 940 CMR 27. You may indeed have a claim under these Massachusetts statutes against the hospital.
Challenges to such a suit:
son may have information from another source
communications between family members may be privileged
complicated family issues may cloud legal claims
You might want to have a consult with a health-care attorney who could advise you more fully.
Attorney Horan is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. The response provided here is informational only, not legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Attorney Horan is correct. You should speak with a Massachusetts health care lawyer. Your only chance at having a claim is under Mass law.
Attorney Lauren Craig Redmond ~ 617.953.6116 ~ No attorney/client relationship is established or implied by any email or phone conversation.
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