No Private Cause of Action Under HIPAA, although Probable Cause of Action for 14th Amendment Violation

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Compliance News

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has made a decision that there is no private cause of action in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to deal with improper disclosures of protected health information (PHI); nevertheless, the ruling indicates there is possibly a cause of action with the 14th amendment in case of violation of an individual’s privacy.

The case, Payne v. Taslimi, referred to Jahal Taslimi as the defendant and Christopher N. Payne as the plaintiff. Taslimi is a prison doctor while Payne was an inmate at the Deep Meadow Correctional Center. Payne filed a case against Taslimi alleging improper disclosure of his confidential health data. Payne claimed Taslimi went to his bed and said that he had not taken his HIV medication using a voice that is loud enough for other people to hear. Payne alleged staff members, other inmates, and civilians had heard the doctor.

In the legal action, Payne stated his health records were private and Taslimi had violated his HIPAA rights at Deep Meadow Correctional Center, as per the 14th Amendment privacy conditions. The district court sacked Payne’s allegations, however, Payne filed an appeal.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court decision and stated there was no private cause of action with HIPAA. The court additionally confirmed the district court’s decision to disregard the claim of a breach of the 14th Amendment.

In the judgment, the Court of Appeals stated that a breach of the 14th Amendment depended on whether or not Payne g0t “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in relation to the information about his HIV prescription drugs. Considering that Payne was a prisoner at Deep Meadow Correctional Center, the court decided that Payne didn’t have enough reasonable expectation of privacy with regards to his diagnosis and treatment program, particularly since the data was concerning a communicable disorder.

The court decided that the test in this kind of scenario is whether there is a compelling government interest that is more important than the plaintiff’s privacy interest. The judgment indicates there could be a cause of action as per the 14th Amendment where there was a disclosure of private medical data and no prodding government interest.

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