Convicted drug traffickers’ federal law claim against hospital dismissed

April 22nd, 2011 by admin Leave a reply »

AUGUSTA, Maine (Legal Newsline) – The Maine Supreme Court said a lower court did not err in dismissing a couple’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, claim against a hospital.

However, the Court, in a ruling filed April 12, vacated the Oxford County Superior Court’s judgment as to the couple’s state law claims.

The couple, Dwayne and Debbie Bonney, were being evaluated by emergency room nurses at Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, Maine, when a hospital security guard overheard their conversation and reported the information to the local police.

The two were victims of a violent assault that occurred during an invasion of their home in South Paris. Both suffered severe skull fractures.

Police interviewed the couple about the assault and then obtained a warrant authorizing the search of the Bonneys’ residence. While conducting their search, investigators found evidence of marijuana cultivation. This evidence eventually resulted in the Bonneys’ indictment and subsequent conviction for drug trafficking.

The Bonneys sued the hospital and the unnamed security guard for damages, alleging that the guard violated their rights under both state and federal law by reporting confidential health care information to the police and that they suffered emotional distress as a result.

The hospital moved for summary judgment on the Bonneys’ state law claims, arguing that it immunizes health care providers who report assaults to law enforcement when serious bodily injury has been inflicted, even when no written authorization from the patients is obtained.

The hospital also moved to dismiss the couple’s federal claim, arguing that

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