On June 14, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a Plaintiff’s state law negligence per se claim premised on Washington University’s (Defendant) alleged violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). I.S., Plaintiff v. Washington Univ., No. 4:11-cvv-00235-SNLJ (E.D. Missouri, Opinion Filed June 14, 2011).
According to her complaint, Plaintiff received treatment from Washington University for colon cancer. While being treated by Defendant, Plaintiff authorized Washington University to submit only medical information to her employer in support of her medical leave. Plaintiff alleges, however, that Washington University submitted additional protected health information to her employer without authorization, including information regarding Plaintiff’s HIV status, mental health issues and insomnia treatments. Plaintiff filed suit against Washington University in state court alleging, among other things, negligence per se. To establish negligence per se, Plaintiff cited to Washington University’s alleged HIPAA violation as a standard. Washington University removed the case to federal court and Plaintiff filed a motion for remand. Washington University contended that Plaintiff’s negligence per se claim was "simply a thinly-disguised attempt to bring a private cause of action for violation of [HIPAA]." Although Plaintiff conceded that HIPAA did not provide for a private right of action, Plaintiff stated that it only referenced “HIPAA in order to establish the standard of care by which to adjudge whether defendant’s acts were negligent.” Agreeing with Plaintiff, the court found that the Plaintiff stated a claim for negligence per se based on Washington University’s alleged violation of HIPAA. The court also found that Plaintiff’s reference to HIPAA in her negligence per se claim did not raise any compelling federal interest nor present a substantial federal question. Accordingly, the court remanded Plaintiff’s negligence per se claim back to state court.
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