KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The disposal of a still-unknown number of patient records in a dumpster outside Research Medical Center last month could soon become an even more costly mistake for physicians group Midwest Women’s Healthcare Specialists.
This week, a Kansas City attorney filed a class action lawsuit against the group on behalf of some of the women whose private information was compromised.
The lawsuit filed in Jackson County on Tuesday accuses MWHS of breaching its fiduciary duty to keep patient records confidential, and seeks unspecified damages, including “punitive damages in an amount sufficient to deter Defendant and others from the same or similar conduct.”
Attorney Maureen Brady filed the lawsuit, and in an interview on Friday appeared confident a jury would side with her clients, should the case proceed that far.
“You have to think to yourself: What is your most intimate secret? These women have charged their healthcare provider with their most intimate secrets and that’s lost, and it's lost forever,” Brady said.
Editor's Note: Both Garrett Haake and 41 Action News are named multiple times in the lawsuit filed this week in establishing the plaintiff's argument. You can read the lawsuit at the end of this story.
Brady currently has another privacy-related suit pending against Research Medical Center .
On May 19, as many as a few hundred patient records were placed in a dumpster outside the MHWS practice at Research Medical Center, and wind scattered them around the hospital’s neighborhood. Some were recovered only days later, and it remains unclear if all the documents have been found even now.
Midwest Women’s Healthcare declined 41 Action News’ request for an interview, but spokesperson Ashlee Peterson responded to questions about the lawsuit in an emailed statement.
“First and foremost, we sincerely apologize to Midwest Women’s Healthcare Specialist’s patients who are affected by this incident,” the statement read in part. “We care deeply about our patients and their privacy and are working diligently to investigate and remedy this situation.”
The MWHS statement did not mention the lawsuit.
Last month, MWHS released a statement explaining that the records, which it called “billing” records as opposed to “medical records” were “mistakenly placed in a trash dumpster during a construction project.”
41 Action News obtained some 70 individual patient records from a Good Samaritan. Those records included names, addresses, social security numbers and procedures performed on women on the day of their appointments, spanning from late 2011 to early 2012.
MWHS has said they believe they have recovered the majority of the documents lost that day, and that they have begun reaching out to the women affected. Some patients reached by 41 Action News said they had been contacted by MWHS, but Brady said her clients had not.
“Once they realized their mistake, they should have taken every effort,” she said Friday. “They should have moved mountains to get that information back, and to mitigate the harm that they were doing.”
41 Action News returned some of the records we received to individual patients, and the balance were returned to MWHS on May 23rd. Some of the women we spoke to said they have been subsequently contacted by MWHS.
Brady’s lawsuit names only two women as plaintiffs, but she said Friday she expects that number to grow.
“We believe that there have been dozens, if not hundreds of other patients that have similar type injuries,” she said.