(CN) – A private investigation firm may have invaded the privacy of a man suing Amtrak for an alleged personal injury, a federal judge ruled.
Stanley Yates Jr. sued the federally owned railroad in November 2008, claiming that he was injured on its property. In 2011 Amtrack allegedly told Yates that it had hired private investigators at Commercial Index Bureau (CIB) to conduct a background investigation and surveillance of his current level of physical activity.
Yates filed suit for invasion of privacy in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claiming that investigator Gordon Rusinko “intentionally intruded” onto the property where Yates lived with his wife and childrey, even ringing the doorbell to ask about snow removal.
Yates said CIB also communicated with several hospitals to investigate his medical history. He says that these records gave CIB personal information that included treatments he received, his date of birth and even his Social Security number, in alleged violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody upheld the claims against CIB regarding Yates’ medical records last week, finding that Yates “has sufficiently alleged that his privacy was intentionally invaded.”
CIB had argued that its medical investigation was justified because Yates had filed a personal injury suit that put his health history at issue.
Brody disagreed, finding that Yates “has sufficiently alleged that his privacy was intentionally invaded by CIB when it conducted an investigation into his hospital records, which it knew it did not have consent to obtain.”
CIB will not have to face invasion-of-privacy and trespass claims related to its surveillance of the Yates home, however.
Yates “was clearly aware of Rusinko’s intentional intrusion on his land because he answered the door and spoke to Rusinko,” the decision states. Because Yates filed suit in 2011, and the incident occurred in 2009, the “claims are barred by the statues of limitations.”
The judge also upheld Yates’ claim for punitive damages as “it is unclear whether CIB’s actions rise to the level of outrageous conduct.”
The claims against Amtrak were not at issue.