Courts toss two California hospital breach lawsuits

Though data breaches tend to be costly for healthcare providers--the cost of the Community Health Systems breach, for instance, has been estimated to be as much as $150 million--patients who sue don't necessarily win.

Two California cases bear that out, according to an announcement from Beazley, the parent company of specialist insurance businesses with operations in Europe, the U.S., Asia and Australia.

Eisenhower Medical Center faced a $500 million class-action suit, after the theft of a computer containing an index of more than 500,000 patients' names and personal information. However the California Court of Appeal ruled under the state's Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) that healthcare providers are not liable for the release of patients' personal information if it does not include information about medical histories, conditions or treatments.

Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court, last week, declined to hear an appeal against two lower court decisions that had found that Sutter Health was not liable under the CMIA for damages of up to $4 million for a data breach involving the theft of a desktop computer.

Back in May, an Illinois state court dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Advocate Health and Hospitals Group. Considered the second-largest HIPAA data breach at the time, protected health information and Social Security numbers for more than 4 million people were compromised when four unencrypted laptops were stolen. The court ruled the plaintiffs couldn't demonstrate they'd actually been harmed or that their data was used for unauthorized purposes, according to Law360.

A lawsuit against the Defense Department its TRICARE insurance program and Science Applications International Corp. also was dismissed earlier this year. Information for 4.7 million people was compromised when a thief broke into a SAIC employee's car, taking a GPS system and backup tapes that contained protected health information. A federal judge, however, quashed the lawsuit after 22 of the 33 plaintiffs selected to participate in the suit on behalf of the entire class could not demonstrate harm.

To learn more:
- find the announcement
- read the Law360 article