South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Revealing Private Information to One Person May Be Invasion of Privacy
Description Appeals court affirmed that for a medical technician to reveal medical information about a patient to one person could be grounds for a suit for invasion of privacy. The information was sensitive and the technician knew that medical information was guarded, so it was reckless use of the information.
Topic Torts
Key Words Invasion of Privacy; Publicity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts LeDoux was on an EMT team that responded to a 911 call from the Pachowitz residence. She provided emergency medical attention to Julie Pachowitz, who was unresponsive, had poor vital signs, and was taken to a hospital for treatment. LeDoux told Slocomb, a mutual friend, that she was afraid that Pachowitz had a drug overdose. She said she told her because she thought Slocomb, who worked at another hospital could be of help. When Slocomb told Pachowitz that LeDoux had told her about the matter, Pachowitz sued LeDoux for invasion of privacy by publicizing information about her medical condition. The jury awarded Pachowitz $3,000 and, under Wisconsin law, Pachowitz was also awarded $30,460 in attorney fees. LeDoux appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. To establish a cause of action for invasion of privacy, a plaintiff must prove: 1) a public disclosure of facts regarding the plaintiff; 2) the facts disclosed are private facts; 3) the private matter made public is one which would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and 4) the defendant acted either unreasonably or recklessly as to whether there was a legitimate public interest in the matter. Disclosure of the information to one person is sufficient to be considered disclosure to the public. LeDoux was aware of the confidential nature of patient information, so disclosure of the information was reckless.

Citation Pachowitz v. LeDoux, --- N.W.2d --- (2003 WL 21221823, Ct. App., Wisc., 2003)

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