Judicial District of Fairfield


Torts; Negligence; Federal Preemption; Whether Trial Court Properly Determined that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Preempted Plaintiff's Claims of Negligent Disclosure of Health Information. The plaintiff, who was a patient of the defendant medical practice, was given notice of its privacy policy regarding protected health information. In connection with a paternity action involving the plaintiff, the defendant was served with a subpoena commanding it to produce the plaintiff's medical records. The defendant mailed the records to the court, where the putative father was able to examine them. Thereafter, the plaintiff brought this action, asserting claims of common law and statutory negligence. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently failed to protect properly her medical file and violated her rights to confidentiality of health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Statutes 52-146o. Also, she asserted a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The court dismissed the negligence claims arising under HIPAA on the ground that there is no private right of action under the act. In doing so, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument that she was not asserting a private right of action under HIPAA and that the HIPAA guidelines merely provided evidence of the appropriate standard of care to be applied to her state law negligence claims. The court next examined the state law claims to determine whether they were preempted by HIPAA, explaining that a contrary provision of state law relating to private health care information is preempted unless it is more stringent than the relevant HIPAA provision. With regard to the claim under 52-146o, the court found that the statute was contrary to HIPAA because it did not contain HIPAA's safeguards and that it was less stringent than HIPAA. Accordingly, the court concluded that the claim was preempted. As to the claims that the defendant negligently failed to protect the plaintiff's file and caused her emotional distress, the court found that they amounted to claims of HIPAA violations for which there is no private right of action. In addition, the court found that they were preempted by HIPAA. The court, therefore, dismissed the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the trial court improperly concluded that her claims were preempted and that they were prohibited "private actions" under HIPAA.