Plaintiff May Cast Employee's Intentional Disclosure of PHI as Breach of Contract by Hospital

October 5, 2022 | Strategic Insights for Health System


‚ÄčA patient argued that a hospital employee's intentional access to and disclosure of the patient's protected health information (PHI) breached the hospital's contractual obligations to him. The jury found that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of her employment and thus returned a verdict for the hospital. However, the Supreme Court of Alaska has vacated the judgment, concluding that a party can be liable for breach of contract based on an employee's conduct regardless of whether the employee was acting outside the scope of their employment, unless the contract excuses liability for employee acts that are outside the scope of employment.

The patient was hospitalized for treatment of injuries he suffered from being sexually assaulted and tortured by a group of people. While the patient was in the hospital, one of the assailants texted a hospital financial counselor, asking her to access the patient's medical records. The assailant was a close friend and former codefendant with the employee's husband in a federal drug case. The employee accessed the records...

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