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Tampa General Hospital reaches settlement in data breach lawsuit

Tampa General Hospital has reached a settlement in a breach of contract lawsuit in which it was alleged that at least one if not several of its employees were responsible for unauthorized access of patient records. In settling the case, the hospital will not only contribute $10,000 to a settlement fund, but will also cover the costs of one year's worth of credit monitoring among the group's members as well.

Under the agreement, settlement class members are described as those that have suffered a documented loss resulting from the alleged identify theft. To claim benefits, agreed to as part of the settlement, any stolen identity must be able to be traced back to the unauthorized access of medical records as described in letters exchanged between the hospital and patients on Aug. 5 or Aug. 12, 2013 or Sept.12, 2014.

In letters sent to those affected, the hospital warned of a potential PHI and PII data breach. It highlighted how data such as addresses, social security numbers, names, dates of birth, insurance and admissions information had been inappropriately accessed or obtained.

In addition to a breach of privacy, the hospital was also accused of having violated its fiduciary duty and implied contract, a violation of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. In settling the lawsuit, the hospital issued a statement denying all charges against them and instead re-affirmed that the settlement was merely intended to avoid costly litigation.

This, however, isn't the first data breach accusation the hospital has faced. In May of 2013, an employee of the University of South Florida was stopped and had their car searched by a Hillsborough County Deputy. It turned up patient PHI data, despite the individual's lack of authority to obtain them.

Each of these cases were settled by the same exact offer of a contribution to a settlement fund and compensated credit counseling, much like this case. A fairness hearing is pending at the end of March 2017 where a judge will make a determination as to whether to approve the settlement in this case or not.

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a suspected data breach or other type of breach of contract at the hands of a hospital or medical facility, a Melbourne, Florida, class action attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter.

Source: HealthITSecurity.com, "Tampa General Hospital data breach settlement reached," accessed March 29, 2017

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