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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Clinic in the Clear Over Revelation of Man’s STD

(CN) - A New York man cannot sue the clinic that employed a nurse who leaked his diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease, the state's highest court ruled.

While John Doe was undergoing treatment at the Guthrie Clinic Steuben in 2010, a nurse there recognized him as her sister-in-law's boyfriend.

The nurse looked into Doe's medical records and learned that he was being treated for an STD. She texted the news to Doe's girlfriend.

Doe was awaiting treatment when his girlfriend forwarded the test messages to him.

Thinking the staff had been making fun of him, Doe returned to complain about the disclosure of his information.

The clinic fired the nurse, but Doe still sued the clinic for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent hiring and infliction of emotional distress.

Though a federal judge dismissed all of Doe's claims, the 2nd Circuit affirmed only as to four of the five claims.

Unsure how to resolve the breach-of-fiduciary-duty claim, the federal panel sought guidance from the New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

That court concluded, 6-1, on Thursday that the clinic was not responsible.

"A medical corporation's duty of safekeeping a patient's confidential medical information is limited to those risks that are reasonably foreseeable and to actions within the scope of employment," Judge Eugene Pigott wrote for the majority.

Judge Jenny Rivera dissented from his colleagues.

"A hospital should owe a duty to keep a patient's health information confidential, and a hospital should be directly liable for its own failure to prevent breaches confidentiality by employees who act outside the scope of their employment," she wrote.

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