Indiana Court of Appeals Decides in Favor of Respondeat Superior Claim in HIPAA Breach Lawsuit

The Indiana Court of Appeals reinstated the respondeat superior claim of Haley SoderVick who filed a legal case on Parkview Health System Inc. after a medical assistant viewed her health records and disclosed the sensitive data with another person.

Haley SoderVick filed a lawsuit against Parkview Health System after she was advised that a medical assistant had viewed her health data and shared the details to her then spouse. The medical assistant’s spouse shared a photo on Facebook which SoderVick liked.

SoderVick went to Parkview Health in October 2017 and had a medical check-up in the OB/GYN clinic. When she was there, the medical assistant, Alexi Christian viewed her health records.

Christian messaged her husband facts about SoderVick, indicating she was a patient at the center, gave away a potential medical diagnosis, and said to her husband that SoderVick works as a dispatcher. She furthermore shared with her husband SoderVicks HIV-positive status and had a relationship with over 50 sexual partners, though the two remarks were not true and that data was not acquired from her health file. Christian claimed she was thought her husband might have recognized Sodervick because she had liked his write-up, and would like to know if perhaps her husband, Caleb Thomas, was sexually related to SoderVick.

The communications were later viewed by Thomas’ sister who took Thomas’s cell phone. She informed Parkview Health regarding the HIPAA violation and sent the text, which mandated an investigation that brought about the firing of Christian because of the HIPAA violation.

After being advised concerning the HIPAA breach, SoderVick filed a lawsuit saying Parkview health was vicariously accountable for the behavior of Christian, that the healthcare company was negligent for not giving suitable training and administration, and claimed Parkview Health broke its statutory and common-law obligations of data security and confidentiality as necessitated by HIPAA.

Parkview Health filed for summary judgment on the allegations, which were actually approved. The trial court decided that Christian’s text messages to any, whether they included truthful details or wrong details about SoderVick, evidently fell out of the range of her job with Parkview and, for that reason, Parkview isn’t vicariously accountable for these behaviors.

SoderVick filed an appeal to the respondeat superior claim and won a majority judgment of reversal in the Court of Appeals. With its motion for summary judgment, Parkview contended there was no legitimate issue of material fact with regards to whether Christian was behaving in the extent of her job. The COA found that there is a legitimate issue of fact on the extent of employment matter; in particular, there is a concern of fact as to whether Christian’s actions were incidental to permitted employment functions. Therefore, the trial court made an error in giving summary judgment for Parkview on the respondeat superior claim. That part of the decision was corrected, and there was a remand for continuing proceedings.