Lear Werts, and its co-counsel, the AW Smith Law Firm have filed a petition in the Boone County Circuit Court seeking a certified class action against MU Healthcare for damages resulting from the unauthorized access to patient information held in MU Healthcare’s computer systems.
In July, 2019, MU Healthcare sent a letter to over 14,000 patients alerting them that MU’s computer systems had been compromised. Specifically, MU Health told patients their “protected health information (PHI) was disclosed without authorization.”
With access to the type of information that was accessed in the data breach, criminals could open accounts in victims’ names; receive medical service in the victims’ name; obtain a driver’s license or official identification card in the victim’s name but with the thief’s photo; use the victim’s name and Social Security number to obtain government benefits; file a fraudulent tax return using the victim’s information; and give the victim’s personal information to police during an arrest, resulting in an arrest warrant being issued in the victim’s name. See Federal Trade Commission, Warning Signs of Identity Theft, available at https://www.identitytheft.gov/Warning-Signs-of-Identity-Theft.
The medical industry has experienced disproportionately high rates of data theft as compared to other industries because medical information is especially valuable to data thieves. As a result, a variety of federal statutes and regulations charge healthcare providers, like MU Health, with ensuring the integrity of their computer systems to prevent data breaches.
On August 8, 2019, Lear Werts Partner Todd Werts was quoted in the Columbia Tribune as saying:
“When we are talking about protecting health information, some of the most private and at times embarrassing information, there is just a responsibility for health care to protect that information,” … “There is nothing to lead me to believe they (the university) was doing something intentional to embarrass anybody, but there is information that leads me to believe there was some negligence on the part of some folks.” … “In these sorts of cases, [the plaintiffs are] not seeking anything people are not owed, but fair compensation for the harm they have suffered.”