New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has filed suit against ESPN and ESPN reporter Adam Schefter for violations of Florida Statute § 456.057 and for invasion of privacy arising from a tweet containing a photo of Pierre-Paul’s medical records.
As many of you no doubt remember, Pierre-Paul was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, July 4, 2015, after suffering a serious injury in an accident involving fireworks. Four days later, Schefter tweeted a photo of Pierre-Paul’s medical records to confirm that Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated. At the time of the tweet, Schefter had over four million followers.
Florida Statute § 456.057(7)(a) provides that medical records “may not be furnished to . . . any person other than the patient, the patient’s legal representative, or other health care practitioners and providers involved in the patient’s care or treatment, except upon written authorization from the patient.” Hospital employees almost certainly violated this requirement when they provided the records in question to Schefter.
Jackson Memorial Hospital was not named in this lawsuit, but it is likely that Pierre-Paul previously sued the hospital separately. On February 5, 2016, the hospital issued a statement to the effect that two employees responsible for leaking the medical records had been terminated and noting that the hospital had settled litigation regarding the leaked records.
The current lawsuit addresses Schefter’s and ESPN’s legal obligations after Schefter received the records. Pierre-Paul claims that Schefter’s tweet violated § 456.057(11) of the statute, which provides that, if medical records are disclosed to a third party, that third party “is prohibited from further disclosing any information in the medical record without the expressed written consent of the patient or the patient’s legal representative.”
It remains to be seen whether Pierre-Paul can successfully convince the court that Schefter should be held responsible for further distributing medical records that hospital employees should never have released. But, for the time being, this remains a cautionary tale about how to handle private and sensitive information when it lands in your lap.