On August 2, 2012, a lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California for Riverside County that alleges the wrongful disclosure of a patient’s mental health records, in violation of federal and state laws. The lawsuit claims that the defendants in the present case were also the defendants in an underlying medical malpractice case that had been previously filed by the patient alleging medical negligence in the treatment of the patient’s arm injury.
While preparing for the arbitration procedure in the underlying medical malpractice case, the medical malpractice defendants allegedly provided their defense attorneys with copies of the patient’s sensitive and private mental health records. The records were disclosed even though the patient did not authorize the disclosure of the sensitive mental health records and despite the patient not alleging psychiatric or psychological injuries as a result of the alleged medical malpractice. (The mental health records that were provided by the medical malpractice defendants to their defense attorneys involved the mental health treatment of a minor child.)
The patient and her attorney first became aware of the unauthorized disclosure of her mental health records during the deposition of the medical malpractice defendants’ vocational expert. The expert testified during his deposition that he had received the records marked “confidential” from the medical malpractice defendants, that he had reviewed the confidential mental health records, that he had discussed the records with the defense attorneys, and that the confidential mental health records were shared with other experts.
The current lawsuit alleges that the mental health records were not part of the main medical chart for the patient, that they were maintained in a separate and distinct area that had restricted access, and that the patient’s parents were not even allowed access to the records.
The lawsuit alleges, “The dissemination of this information was made by Defendants to humiliate, injure and embarrass Plaintiff. Defendants were aware of its intent in gaining access to Plaintiff’s sensitive personal information to use against her during the litigation process” and that the Plaintiff “was caused to suffer severe humiliation, embarrassment, discomfort and anxiety” as a result of the unauthorized disclosure and that she feared that the Defendants “will continue to disclose and disseminate Plaintiff’s mental health records unless enjoined by this Court.”
Source: Dallas Smith vs. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, et al., Case No.: RIC1211732.
There are federal laws, and most states have their own laws, that restrict or preclude the disclosure of patients’ medical records or the contents of the medical records unless the proper authorization from the patient is obtained or a court orders the disclosure of the information, etc. Access to mental health records are even more restrictive under most circumstances. The particular restrictions placed on access to medical records and/or mental health records may vary from state-to-state in the United States and/or from circumstance to circumstance. If sensitive or privileged medical records may have been unlawfully or inappropriately disclosed or disseminated, the advice from a local medical malpractice attorney may help determine if a lawsuit can be filed regarding the wrongful disclosure.
If you or a loved one’s medical records or mental health records may have been wrongfully disclosed or discussed, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in your state to investigate your legal rights.
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