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Doe v. Guthrie Clinic, CoA

Doe v. Guthrie Clinic, CoA

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Doe v. Guthrie Clinic, CoA
Doe v. Guthrie Clinic, CoA

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Published by: asamahavv on Jan 09, 2014
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06/23/2014

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================================================================= This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision beforepublication in the New York Reports.-----------------------------------------------------------------No. 224  John Doe, Appellant, v.Guthrie Clinic, Ltd., et al., Respondents. T. Andrew Brown, for appellant.Martha B. Stolley, for respondents.PIGOTT, J.: The United States Court of Appeals for the SecondCircuit has certified the following question for ourconsideration: "Whether, under New York law, the common lawright of action for breach of the fiduciary duty oconfidentiality for the unauthorized disclosure of medical- 1 -
 
- 2 -No. 224information may run directly against medical corporations, evenwhen the employee responsible for the breach is not a physicianand acts outside the scope of her employment?" We answer thequestion in the negative.On July 1, 2010, "John Doe" was being treated for asexually transmitted disease (STD) at the Guthrie Clinic Steuben,a private medical facility. A nurse employed by the Clinicrecognized Doe as the boyfriend of her sister-in-law. The nurseaccessed Doe's medical records and learned that he was beingtreated for the STD. While Doe was still awaiting treatment, shesent text messages to her sister-in-law informing her of Doe'scondition. The sister-in-law immediately forwarded the messagesto Doe; according to Doe, the messages suggested that stafmembers were making fun of his medical condition.Five days after his visit to the Clinic, Doe called tocomplain of the nurse's behavior. He met with an administratorof the Clinic, and the nurse was fired. Thereafter, thePresident and CEO of Guthrie Clinic, Ltd. sent a letter to Doeconfirming that there had been an unauthorized disclosure of Doe's confidential health information, that appropriatedisciplinary actions had been carried out, and that steps hadbeen taken to prevent such a breach fromoccurring in the future.Doe subsequently filed this action in federal courtagainst defendants, various affiliated entities that allegedly"owned, possessed, operated, staffed and/or otherwise controlled"- 2 -
 
- 3 -No. 224the clinic. In his complaint, Doe asserted eight causes oaction: (1) common law breach of fiduciary duty to maintain theconfidentiality of personal health information, (2) breach ocontract, (3) negligent hiring, training, retention and/orsupervision of employees, (4) negligent infliction of emotionaldistress, (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (6)breach of duty to maintain the confidentiality of personal healthinformation under New York CPLR § 4504, (7) breach of duty tomaintain the confidentiality of personal health information underNew York Public Health Law § 4410, and (8) breach of duty tomaintain the confidentiality of personal health information underNew York Public Health Law § 2803c. The United States District Court for the WesternDistrict of New York granted the defendants' motion to dismissall eight claims (2012 WL 531026, 2012 US Dist LEXIS 20507 [USDist Ct, WD NY February 17, 2012]). Doe appealed the dismissal of the first five of theeight causes of action. The United States Court of Appeals forthe Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of four of theremaining five causes of action, reserving decision on his claimof breach of fiduciary duty, which is the only subject of thiscertified question (519 Fed Appx 719 [2d Cir 2013]). In a separate opinion (710 F3d 492 [2d Cir 2013]), theSecond Circuit found that the nurse's actions were notforeseeable to defendants, nor were her actions taken within the- 3 -

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