(CN) – A hospital and one of its nurses are not liable for disclosing a woman’s HIV-positive status to family members who visited her, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled.
Candy Ziolkowski sued the Heartland Regional Medical Center for violation of a Missouri law that keeps the HIV status of patients confidential.
She claimed that a nurse, Diana Munford, revealed her HIV status to her brother and aunt.
A jury ruled for the hospital and Munford, and Ziolkowski appealed. She argued that one of her witnesses, Kimberly Barron, another nurse at Heartland, had been improperly excluded from testifying at trial.
She said Barron would have testified that both Barron and Munford had revealed confidential information in the past.
But the appeals court declined to reverse the verdict based on the excluded testimony.
“Because Ziolkowski did not argue to the trial court that Barron’s testimony was relevant for the liability-based reasons she now argues on appeal, we cannot rely on those theories to justify reversal,” Judge Alok Ahuja wrote for the court.
The appeals court also rejected Ziolkowski’s other objection: that her own inconsistent statements were used to impeach her.
In her deposition and at trial, she had stated that the accident occurred when she slipped on a toy and put her arm through a window. However, the medical report states that she was injured while wrestling with her boyfriend.
“Ziolkowski’s credibility was plainly a central issue at trial,” Ahuja wrote. “The resolution of this lawsuit depended in large part on the jury’s assessment of Ziolkowski’s truthfulness in describing the substance of her conversations with Nurse Munford.”