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New York Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Physician, Holding Access to Medical Records is Authorized


This is a case of appeal. The appellant of the case is Miguel M. The respondent in the case is Charles Barron. The case is being heard in the Second Department of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division.

Court Opinion

A New York Injury Lawyer said this is an appeal case where the court is asked to determine if a physician can obtain medical records for a patient without the authorization of the individual or a court order in regard to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA in specific situations.

Case History

The petitioner of the case, Charles Barron, M.D., works for the Elmhurst Hospital Center. He is the Director for the Department of Psychiatry. He began this case pursuant to Kendra’s Law that authorizes an AOT of Miguel M., the appellant. To support his case, Dr. Barron offered the testimony from Dr. Garza. Dr. Garza is the director of the AOT department at Elmhurst Hospital Center. Dr. Garza testifies that as part of his duties as the director of AOT for Elmhurst, he evaluates and investigates referrals for the program. He goes on to explain that when evaluating the records of the appellant, he diagnosed Miguel with schizoaffective disorder.

The court received the clinical records as evidence in Dr. Barron’s case. The counsel then asked how Dr. Garza gained possession of these records. Dr. Garza testified that as part of the process of investigation, through the AOT, his office obtains records from health care facilities that have treated people under this type of investigation. He states that the records were received by request for Miguel and the hospitalizations that were in question.

Dr. Garza states that the records did contain the full name of the appellant along with other personal information including his date of birth, home address, his social security number, and his Medicaid number. A Long Island Criminal Lawyer said he states that the personnel from each of the hospitals that released the records verified that they were authentic.

It was at this point that the counsel for the appellant made an oral plea to preclude the admission of these clinical records as evidence and the testimony of Dr. Garza as the records were received in violation of the regulations that are set by HIPAA and that authorization was not made by Miguel for these records to be used. A Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said the court allowed the counsel of the appellant to examine Dr. Garza and he then stated that he was not employed by either of the hospitals as the medical records director and that he did not obtain authorization to obtain the clinical records and he had not obtained a court order to allow him access to the clinical records.

Dr. Barron states that the clinical records are admissible through CPLR 4518. The defense stated that they were not arguing that the records were inadmissible under CPLR 4518, but rather challenging the way the documents were obtained. Dr. Barron argues that through the Mental Hygiene Law the records were legally obtained.

Case Discussion and Conclusion

Our conclusion is that an AOT investigation qualifies as a public health intervention or a public health investigation. While Kendra’s Law is designed to protect people who have a mental illness, it also seeks to protect the health and safety of the public by reducing the risk of violent threats posed by patients that are mentally ill.

We find that the case of Miguel M. qualifies as a public health investigation and for this reason find that the disclosure of his medical records to Dr. Gaza was allowed under the guidelines of HIPAA. We affirm the original verdict of the case.

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