Woman says St. Mary’s didn't protect her medical records

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 20, 2016

HUNTINGTON – A Wayne County woman is suing St. Mary’s Medical Center after she claims it allowed people to access her private health information that should not have had access.

St. Mary’s Medical Management LLC; Cabell-Huntington Hospital Inc.; Rebecca Winters, formerly known as Rebecca Harmon; and Jessica Hatfield also were named as defendants in the suit.

On Oct. 25, 2013, C.H. went to her physician Dr. Joseph P. Assaley, for certain laboratory tests, which included testing for sexually transmitted diseases, according to a complaint filed in Cabell Circuit Court.

C.H. claims the laboratory generated a medical record documenting the results of the testing, which was housed in its Sorian document management system. Sometime prior to December 2013, St. Mary’s and Cabell’s document management system merged.

The plaintiff did not disclose the results of her laboratory testing to anyone and on Dec. 17, 2013, Winters obtained access to and viewed her protected health information. On that same day, Hatfield also obtained access and viewed her PHI.

On Dec. 19, 2013, Hatfield against obtained access to and viewed C.H.’s patient care summary and lab results from her PHI, according to the suit.

C.H. claims Winters obtained a copy of her testing results, altered the results to indicate that she tested positive for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea and then published the falsified results to multiple third-parties.

On Jan. 20, 2014, Winters again obtained access to and viewed C.H.’s confidential medical records and continued to publish not only the very private facts that C.H. had been tested for STDs, but additionally, the falsified results of the testing, seeking out and telling anyone who would listen that she had Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, according to the suit.

C.H. claims she began to see Internet posts alleging she had various STDs, and complaints were made to her employer alleging she had STDs and she began receiving insulting and intrusive prank phone calls from untraceable numbers.

Once she realized the calls were not dying down and the incident did not simply blow over, she reached out to Assaley about the apparent disclosure and dissemination of her PHI, according to the suit.

C.H. claims in August 2014, she spoke to Cabell Huntington Hospital’s privacy officer, Sue Surritt, about the apparent access and disclosure of her medical records and in March, Surritt requested C.H.’s permission to disclose and discuss with St. Mary’s, the allegations regarding access and dissemination of her medical records by employees.

Kathy Jackson, St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Health Information Management Director and Privacy Officer did not perform an audit of her system or any type of investigation into the matter, as she believed the issue was Cabell’s problem, according to the suit.

C.H. claims the defendants actions were negligent and caused her emotional distress.

The defendants’ actions were willful, wanton, malicious and/or undertaken with reckless disregard and/or reckless indifference to the rights of the plaintiff, according to the suit.

C.H. is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Robert B. Warner, Lynnette Simon Marshall and Andrew D. Byrd of Warner Law Offices PLLC; and Jack C. Dolance of the Law Office of Jack C. Dolance PLLC.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Christopher D. Chiles.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 15-C-821

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Dolance Law Office PLLC Warner Law Offices PLLC

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