The Connecticut Supreme Court has joined several other states by holding that health care providers owe patients a common law duty to maintain the confidentiality of their medical records. In a unanimous reversal of the lower court’s ruling, the court determined that the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information obtained in the course of a physician-patient relationship gives rise to a cause of action in tort against the health care provider, unless the disclosure is otherwise allowed by law.
Emily Byrne sued the Avery Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, P.C. (“Avery”) for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress in connection with Avery’s release of her medical records in response to a subpoena issued by her ex-boyfriend, Andro Mendoza, in the course of a paternity action. The subpoena instructed Avery to send the custodian of its records to appear, together with Byrne’s medical records, at the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court. Avery did not alert Bryne about the subpoena, file a motion to quash it, or appear in court – it mailed Byrne’s medical records. Bryne alleges that she suffered harassment and extortion threats from Mendoza because Avery gave him access to her medical records without her knowledge or consent.