Jury Awards Walgreens Customer $1.44 Million Over HIPAA Violation

LOL Blog Label 2By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

An Indiana jury awarded a Walgreens customer $1.44 million on July 26, 2013, over a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation, according to the Indianapolis Star. The Walgreens pharmacist was found to have violated the customer’s privacy by looking up and sharing the customer’s prescription history with others. The lawsuit alleged that there was a relationship between the pharmacist, her husband and the husband’s ex-girlfriend (who was the customer). The customer/ex-girlfriend was the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Click here to read the entire article from the Indianapolis Star.

Details of the Lawsuit.

According to the American Bar Association, the lawsuit alleged the pharmacist was married to the customer’s ex-boyfriend at the time the pharmacist viewed her prescription records. The pharmacist admitted to showing the confidential information to her husband, who shares a child with the customer/plaintiff. In doing this, the pharmacist breeched her statutory and common law duties of confidentiality and privacy.

Click here to read the entire article from the American Bar Association.

Walgreens Found Negligent.

The jury found Walgreens negligent in training and supervising the pharmacist. The pharmacist admitted she was aware of the pharmacy’s privacy policy and knew she was violating it. Walgreens claims the pharmacist has been appropriately disciplined.

Deadline to Comply with Omnibus Rule Close-Are You Ready?

The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) released stronger rules and protections governing patient privacy on January 17, 2013. This omnibus rule strengthens the privacy and security protection established under HIPAA. Physicians, hospitals, clinics, health care providers and their business associates need to take into account the corrections as they work to update business associate agreements, policies, practices and training to comply with the rule changes by the September 23, 2013, deadline. To learn more on the omnibus rule changes, click here to read a previous blog.

Be Proactive-Get a HIPAA Risk Assessment.

A HIPAA risk assessment can significantly reduce, if not entirely eliminate, your exposure to regulatory and litigation sanctions.  It will identify areas for improvement and allow them to be corrected before an auditor finds the issue and causes unwanted problems for you and your practice.

HIPAA laws have most likely changed since you last edited your privacy forms and procedures. Many health providers simply don’t have the time to re-review their policies and revise documents. In a perfect practice, this would be done every six months.

To learn more on HIPAA risk assessments, click here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on this HIPAA violation? Do you think Walgreens failed to train and supervise the pharmacist? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Neil, Martha. “Walgreens Must Pay Customer $1.44M After Pharmacy Shared Her Prescription Records.” American Bar Association. (July 29, 2013). From: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/jury_says_walgreens_must_pay_1.44m_because_pharmacist_gave_her_husband/

Evans, Tim. “Walgreens Must Pay Woman $1.44 Million Over HIPAA Violation.” Indianapolis Star. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.indystar.com/article/20130726/NEWS/307260079/

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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5 thoughts on “Jury Awards Walgreens Customer $1.44 Million Over HIPAA Violation

  1. Yes I do believe the HIPPA was violated. Just as it is being violated everyday in FL now. Pharmacists are asking doctors private medical information about pain patients and making up their own minds if the patient deserves opioid pain medications for their conditions in which they are refusing to fill these scripts. Pharmacists are asking extremely too many questions without HIPPA release forms from patients. How is the patient to know who they are telling this information to about them? or if they are being red flagged and denied by other pharmacists based one pharmacists decision. For everyone’s information, pharmacists aren’t taught enough about various medical conditions including many rare diseases and how they cause pain conditions in patients to order to make decisions as this. They are clearly breaking the law and getting away with it everyday. It’s wrong and needs to be corrected before many more are sued for the same reasons.

  2. I was humiliated last night by a pharmacist who would not fill my legal prescription. I got it filled somewhere else in 15 minutes. I am tired (and I’m not the only one) who has chronic pain and is asked personal questions or refused service on the whim of whomever is the pharmacist at the time. Can you help me?

    • Jody:

      Thank you for commenting. Unfortunately we cannot give legal advice out over our blog. If you desire speak to an attorney, you may telephone our office at (407) 331-6620 from 9:00 A.M. through 5:00 P.M. Eastern (except for lunch when we are closed for one hour starting at noon) and make such arrangements.

  3. So true.. I feel she did violate Hippa .. If I had known about this , possibly I could of done the same thing, however it wasn’t an ex or even a relative.. she yelled out everything in front of others and tried to argue with me about getting my refill for pain medication, as a person with AIDS . she stated that I should not be taking pain meds and it damages my liver.. well I told her in front of others that i was on HIV medications so destroying my liver.. she finally filled it. .however I was so embarrassed about the situation.. I am happy to see someone has nailed them for violations.

  4. I am most unhappy to find that as a chronic pain patient I have a different Hippa form.It forces me to disclose information regarding my health care to the DEA.My MD was told he had to do it or stop dispensing. It is based on a lie.I should not be treated any differently that a diabetic or a patient with high blood pressure.The case that started it was the DEA vs Walgreens and Walgreens agreed to disclose information about pts .It is wrong.I think it may be unconstitutional to demand a different set of rues dependent on a scrip. Just because I need the meds does not imply I am misusing them.In fact NP long term pain patient would because then they would not have the meds they need.I mean need as in can not get out of bed and walk without pain intervention.It is grossly unfair to force millions of people to give Law enforcement access to medical records.

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