Michigan Supreme Court Deciding HIPAA’s Impact in Liability Cases

Oral arguments began on November 3, 2009 in a case that will test whether defendants in medical liability lawsuits are permitted under HIPAA to conduct informal interviews with plaintiffs’ other treating doctors.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects private health information and preserves patient confidentiality. In the case at issue, the plaintiff suing a physician for negligence has denied the physician access to informal interviews with other treating physicians, arguing that HIPAA only allows the disclosure of written medical records–not oral communications, where it is more difficult to predict what protected information might be disclosed. The trial court agreed with this argument, only to be reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2008. The Appeals Court ruled that, provided the patient was notified through a proper mechanism, such informal meetings were permissible.

Other states have split over whether HIPAA prohibits informal oral interviews in medical liability cases.

For more information, view the Health Law Partners’ page on Compliance with HIPAA, or contact HLP lawyers Abby Pendleton, Esq. or Jessica Gustafson, Esq. at (248) 996-8510.

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