Apr 3 2018

Connecticut Law Update (April 2018)

Breach of HIPAA Confidentiality

Byrne v. Avery Center for Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C., 314 Conn. 433 (2018)
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant improperly breached her confidentiality by complying with a subpoena for her medical records without her authorization.  The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim on the grounds that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) did not establish a private right of action, and further that HIPAA preempted any state laws contrary to it.  The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that HIPAA did not preempt the plaintiff’s common law causes of action for negligence or negligent infliction of emotional distress in state court because (1) Connecticut common law provides a remedy for breach of confidentiality of medical records by a healthcare provider, even where the healthcare provider is complying with a subpoena, and (2) HIPAA can be used to inform standard of care inquiries arising from a claimant’s allegations of negligent disclosure of medical records pursuant to a subpoena.  This opinion establishes binding precedent for the principle that, even under force of subpoena, a Connecticut healthcare provider is not obligated to provide medical records without a sufficiently specific, signed authorization from the patient. 


Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – Psychiatric Examination

Davidson v. City of Bridgeport, 180 Conn. App. 18 (2018)
 
In connection with a disciplinary proceeding, the chief of police asked the police department’s workers’ compensation carrier to schedule the plaintiff for an examination with a psychiatrist.  The plaintiff had been led to believe that he was undergoing a physical examination only, but upon his arrival learned that a psychiatric examination had been requested.  The Connecticut Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision that the defendants did not (1) violate the plaintiff’s state right to privacy nor (2) negligently or intentionally cause him emotional distress.  The Court upheld the finding that the chief of police sent the plaintiff for a psychiatric evaluation out of concern for his welfare and to determine his fitness for duty.  The Court also held that the request for that a psychiatric examination was not the cause of any emotional distress claimed by the plaintiff. 
 

Duty Defend – Insured Premises

Szynkowicz v. State of Connecticut, Superior Court of Connecticut, 2018 WL 1041506 
 
The court granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment upon finding the insurer had no duty to defend the State of Connecticut in an underlying slip and fall case.  The plaintiff worked at a farm stand owned by the insured.  On the date of the slip and fall, the plaintiff left the stand to use a nearby bathroom which was connected to the insured’s premises by a path. The State of Connecticut owned the bathroom and was an additional insured on the farm stand owner’s policy.  The Court found that, because the bathroom was not a covered premises under the policy, the insurer had no duty to defend the State because the claim did not “arise out of” the use of the insured premises. 

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