Alabama Plaintiff Receives $300,000 for Damages over HIPAA Breach

Amy Pertuit from Alabama received $300,000 in damages for the illegal access and disclosure of her protected health information (PHI) to a third party by a physician .

Plaintiff Pertuit filed a legal case against Alabama-based Medical Center Enterprise (MCE), a former MCE doctor, and a lawyer over her privacy violation in January 2015.

The lawyers for the plaintiff stated that Amy Pertuit’s husband suffered visitation problems and was engaged in a child custody battle with his ex-wife, Deanna Mortenson.

Deanna Mortenson got in touch with Dr. Lyn Diefendfer, a doctor at MCE, and persuaded her to provide Amy Pertuit’s health data to be used against her ex-husband’s custody battle. Dr. Diefendfer viewed Pertuit’s information via the Alabama Prescription Drug Monitoring Program web page and shared the information to Mortenson’s lawyer, Gary Bradshaw. Considering that Dr. Diefendfer did not have any treatment relationship with Amy Pertuit, she had no authorization to view her health data. She violated the hospital policies and HIPAA Rules for accessing and sharing patient information.

After finding out about the disclosure of her health information, Pertuit submitted a complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The hospital was notified but the hospital was unable to execute applicable sanctions against Diefendfer. Allegedly, Dr. Diefendfer also accessed even more health data in 2016, which she disclosed to her lawyer.

The plaintiff’s lawyers additionally said that the MCE’s privacy officer investigated Dr. Diefendfer and learned of 22 different cases of hospital policies and HIPAA Rules violations.

The legal cases filed against Dr. Diefender, Atty. Gary Bradshaw and Deanna Mortensen, had out of court settlement. The lawsuit against MCE had a jury trial.

The jury unanimously decided that MCE failed to do the necessary action against Dr. Diefender’s privacy violation. Plaintiff Pertuit was awarded $295,000 in punitive damages and another $5,000 to recompense the pain, suffering, and humiliation she suffered.