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Avery Center to Pay Patient $853K for Impermissible Data Disclosure

The obstetrics and gynecology provider was accused of releasing a former Connecticut resident’s medical records to a past boyfriend without her knowledge.

Connecticut Supreme Court ruling on privacy data breach

By Jessica Davis

- The Bridgeport Superior Court ruled the Avery Center of Obstetrics and Gynecology must pay a former Connecticut resident $853,000, for releasing the woman’s medical records to her past boyfriend without her consent.

The lawsuit, filed 11 years ago by Emily Byrne, alleged the Connecticut-based provider gave her records to the attorneys of her former boyfriend Andro Mendoza, to comply with a subpoena. Mendoza accessed those records and determined he was the father of Byrne’s daughter.

According to the suit, Byrne ended the relationship upon discovering she was pregnant. But Mendoza used the information he gained from her medical records to fight for custody of the child, while harassing and attempting to extort money from Byrne.

The lawsuit argued that Byrne suffered anxiety, trauma, and emotional stress as a result of the impermissible disclosure of her records. Those effects heightened when she was harassed with exposure to civil claims in federal district court, along with Mendoza’s threats of criminal charges, the suit alleged.

Byrne also claimed she suffered financial loss related to medical bills and legal fees. According to the lawsuit, Avery Center allegedly was in breach of contract and negligent, in misrepresentation and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit argued Avery Center also violated HIPAA in the process.

Avery Center attempted to have the case dismissed, as HIPAA has no private cause of action. The case was seen twice by the Connecticut Supreme Court, as a result. However, the judge ruled in January 2018 to allow the case to precede, arguing a patient harmed by a medical data breach had a tort remedy.

The judge remanded the court to trial, and it was heard in December by a six-member jury, which ruled in favor of Byrne.

“The case created new law. The Supreme Court ruled a patient has a remedy for breaches of medical responsibility and that never occurred before,” Bruce Elstein, Byrne’s attorney, told local news’ outlet CTPost.

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