Alabama judge certifies data privacy breach case

March 27, 2017 by

An Alabama federal judge has certified two subclasses of patients who accuse a hospital of negligence and breach of contract for its failure to prevent and minimize the impact of a former worker’s theft of their personal information.

In a 46-page order, Chief U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins concluded the plaintiffs had met the requirements for certification of their proposed class of all patients who had their blood drawn by a medical provider that sent the blood to be tested by Flowers Hospital, where a phlebotomist stole their personal information and used it to file fraudulent tax returns. The phlebotomist was subsequently arrested and charged with trafficking in stolen identities.

The judge certified a pair of subclasses to distinguish between patients who received the notice of privacy practices (NPP) that the Alabama hospital sends to all patients and those that did not. The patients argued that the NPP bolstered their claim for breach of express contract because it constitutes a binding contract setting forth Flowers Hospital’s obligation to maintain patient confidentiality.

The judge separately certified a class of individuals who did not receive the NPP and could only pursue an implied contract claim under Alabama law.

The case is Smith et al. v. Triad of Alabama LLC d/b/a Flowers Hospital, case number 1:14-cv-00324, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Keith Dubanevich
Keith is an accomplished trial, appellate, and healthcare lawyer with over 30 years of experience in more than a dozen different jurisdictions around the country. With a focus on complex dispute resolution, with particular emphasis in the healthcare industry, Keith is adept at handling multi-state and internal antitrust cases, consumer litigation, and securities disputes. In healthcare, he has handled peer review disputes, partnership and incorporation matters, and billing investigations. Keith has led internal investigations for public entities as well as for not-for-profit organizations. Keith's clients value his keen instincts in court and his ability to delve into complex legal issues while never losing sight of the overall strategy of a case. During his time at the Oregon Department of Justice as Associate Attorney General and Chief of Staff, Keith led the creation of a civil rights unit, managed securities litigation including multiple cases against financial services companies, and supervised antitrust investigations and prosecutions. He was also involved with the adoption of legislation that expanded the Unlawful Trade Practices Act and legislation that imposed a mediation requirement prior to non-judicial foreclosures.

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