ESPN involved in lawsuit from tweet with medical records

Feb 25, 2016, 4:08 PM

ESPN and NFL reporter Adam Schefter find themselves involved in a lawsuit where they are persons of interest.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  It came about because on July 8, 2015 Schefter tweeted out a picture of the private medical records of New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Schefter reportedly obtained the medical records by employees of Jackson Memorial Hospital where Pierre-Paul was treated for an injured finger, which was subsequently amputated.

The suit claims Schefter “improperly obtained Plaintiff’s medical records from a hospital.”

The hospital and its employees are subject to not only HIPPA privacy laws but also to Florida Statute 456.057, which states “all records owners hall develop and implement policies, standards and procedures to protect the confidentiality and security of the medical record.”

Essentially, the hospital is not legally allowed to disclose the private medical records of a patient without that patient’s consent.  But it did.

Do we really need a law for this?

We shouldn’t but, unfortunately, because of the actions of Adam Schefter and possibly some of the hospital staff we do.  Sad.

No doubt the hospital was liable and because of that it settled the dispute.  However, ESPN and Schefter are still on the hook because that same Florida law states, “the third party to whom information is disclosed is prohibited from further disclosing any information in the medical record without the expressed written consent of the patient.”

Neither ESPN or Schefter obtained Pierre-Paul’s consent, which is why there is a lawsuit (FYI, neither ESPN or Schefter are bound by HIPPA).

In Schefter’s defense, he is a reporter.  His job is to get information and report it.  That is what he did.  However, did he ever have a “gut check?”  Did any bells and whistles go off in his head when he received the obviously private information?

If it didn’t then he should step back and look in the mirror.  If it did, and he cleared it with ESPN and the legal team, then, kudos for doing the right thing…kind of.  Remember, he didn’t get Pierre-Paul’s permission.

Pierre-Paul is suing for damages over $15,000.00.  Those damages likely have to do with damage to his reputation, emotional damages, and  perhaps interference with business negotiations if he was in negotiations with his team or with sponsors, and just basic invasion/interference with privacy.  He could also be bringing the suit not for the money, but for the principle of the matter.

Under Florida law, there is a claim for “publication of private facts.” So, if Schefter disclosed offensive, private facts that are not of public concern then damages could be awarded to Pierre-Paul.  However, if they can show Pierre-Paul’s medical information is is of a public concern then they could win.

Schefter and ESPN might have a defense to an invasion of privacy claim by Jason Pierre-Paul. That being said, they still didn’t have his permission so they might just have to pay up.

Burns and Gambo

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ESPN involved in lawsuit from tweet with medical records