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Pair of St. John's lawyers file class-action lawsuit against Central Health over privacy breach

Lawyer Bob Buckingham. JOE GIBBONS FILE PHOTO/THE TELEGRAM
Lawyer Bob Buckingham. - TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO

Bob Buckingham and Eli Baker say their clients suffered mental anguish as a result of employee's illegal access to their private information

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Two St. John’s lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Central Regional Health Authority, seeking damages for consequences suffered by more than 200 patients whose private information was illegally accessed.

“The plaintiffs in this case suffered distress, humiliation, anger, upset, mental anguish, shock, fear of identity theft, uncertainty as to how the private, confidential medical records and personal health information has been used, and confusion as to why their private, confidential medical records and personal health information was accessed,” Bob Buckingham and Eli Baker wrote in a statement of claim filed with the province’s Supreme Court earlier this month.

The breach of privacy has left the 240 patients feeling vulnerable, the lawyers wrote, especially given the time span of the privacy breach, the number of times their files were accessed and the fact that in many cases the access was focused on their newborn babies.

“They are alarmed and terrified at the motivation, purpose and intent of the defendant’s employee’s systematic, targeted intrusion into the private, confidential medical records and personal health of their newborn children,” the statement of claim reads.

Last July, Central Health said someone outside the health authority had alerted them about two weeks previously that an employee had shared a patient’s private information. An internal investigation revealed the employee had unlawfully accessed the records of 240 patients online between October 2018 and June 2020.

The health authority said it immediately undertook an investigation and implemented extra steps to prevent further privacy breaches.

“We take confidentiality and privacy very seriously and sincerely regret this happened,” said Andree Robichaud, president and CEO of Central Health.

The employee was no longer working for the health authority, she said.

The lawsuit claims Central Health was negligent in 10 capacities. Among them: failing to have procedures in place that would have prevented the privacy breaches, failing to properly train its employees, failing to conduct adequate reviews to catch illegal access to files, failing to restrict employees’ access to files so that only immediately required information was available and failing to take reasonable steps to protect patients’ private information from unauthorized access or disclosure.

The statement of claim was filed under the Class Actions Act on Feb. 9.

Central Health did not provide comment when contacted Friday by The Telegram.

Buckingham stated in a news release he hopes to move the case along through discussions with the health authority’s lawyers and communication with the court for the assignment of a case management judge.


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