Minnesota appellate courts released two decisions in the past year interpreting the Minnesota Health Records Act. The Minnesota Health Records Act (“MHRA”) prohibits medical providers from certain disclosures and requests involving patient health records. These materials are defined within the Act and provide for compensatory damages in situations where a provider or person negligently or intentionally requests or releases medical information in violation of the MHRA. Unlike the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”), the MHRA specifically provides a private cause of action allowing patients to recover compensatory damages caused by the unauthorized release or request as reimbursement as well as costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Minnesota case law interpreting the MHRA is somewhat limited, but the appellate courts issued two decisions interpreting the statute with mixed results. In Larson v. Northwestern Mut. Life Ins., 855 N.W.2d 293 (Minn. 2014), a plaintiff sought to recover damages for an insurers’ failure to release medical records as requested. The Minnesota Supreme Court held that the under disclosure was not actionable as the records had not been “actually released.”
The Minnesota Court of Appeals further addressed the MHRA in Expose v. Thad Wilderson & Assocs., P.A., 863 N.W.2d 95 (Minn. App. 2015). In that case, a plaintiff had made threatening statements about a co-worker during an anger management counseling session. An unlicensed health therapist released those records to several other individuals including a case worker, law enforcement authorities, and during a criminal trial. Several issues were addressed on appeal after the plaintiff’s claims were dismissed at the district level. Ultimately, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court decision and decided the case could proceed because, among other reasons, the consent form signed by the plaintiff did not result in complete consent to disclosure. Moreover, the court determined that the unlicensed therapist was not entitled to statutory immunity. Perhaps most significantly, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed with a claim for invasion of privacy regardless of whether an affidavit of expert review had been provided as is generally required in medical malpractice actions.
As the cases demonstrate, disclosure of medical information continues to be a sensitive and complex issue. Issues arise during basic releases and requests of and for medical information. Issues also arise during litigation as various parties attempt to speak with medical providers who treated patients. If you suspect your records have been unlawfully requested or disclosed, you may wish to contact an attorney. The attorneys as Hansen Dordell have investigated and pursued claims under the Minnesota Health Records Act. If you have any questions please contact one of the many experienced attorneys at Hansen Dordell by phone or email – www.hansendordell.com/651-482-8900.