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New York Civil Litigation Review

No fiduciary breach without respondeat superior

Posted in HIPAA/Confidentiality

The Court of Appeals, in a 6-1 decision arising from a certified question from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has held that an upstate health clinic is not liable for the confidentiality breach that occurred when one of its nurses revealed to a patient’s girlfriend, via a text message, that he had a sexually transmitted disease.  However, it should be noted that in Doe v Guthrie Clinic the nurse at question was the sister-in-law of the girlfriend.  This appeared to be ‘the’ compelling factor for the Court of Appeals, that found that the employee-nurse was not acting in and for the employer’s benefit, and thus no respondeat superior, but rather was driven by personal reasons given the familial relationships of the parties.

 

Accordingly, this holding should be viewed as ‘fact-specific’ and not the general rule in such situations.