For those following Gibson v. Providence, State of Oregon Court of Appeals, Case No. CA A137930, we’re scheduled to argue in front of the Court of Appeals next Thursday, April 2. The question is whether the trial court erroneously dismissed the proposed class action.
It’s been a long haul, and there is far to go. No one said this would be easy, but then that’s usually how it works. I’ll post an update on oral argument. Meantime, if you want to review a copy of the first brief that we filed for the patients, you can find it archived here. But you should only do so if you’re into the whole law geek thing.
Interesting brouhaha reportedly brewing over new ethics rules taking effect. It seems that the Oregon legislature voted to apply long-standing ethics disclosure rules to local government officials, and some are walking away angry, or at least questioning the wisdom.
I haven’t reviewed the ethics rules first hand, but according to news reports, they require disclosures of government officials’ sources of income (but not amounts), business ownership interests, adult family relatives, and property owned within the jurisdiction. The theory behind the disclosure requirements is that we who are mere citizens would like to know that the multi-million dollar consulting contract or controversial zoning change isn’t quietly benefiting your family or your pocketbook.
Some are objecting to what they see as an invasion of privacy. I have to say that in this era of the internet, computer data, and domestic spying, I have grown more concerned about privacy concerns. But even so, I don’t think these disclosures are problematic for a couple of reasons.
The whole government office thing is a privilege and not an entitlement. For those who are unhappy with the disclosures, the right choice is to pull a Johnny Paycheck (I’m dating myself–country and western anthem, with the famous chorus, “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t workin’ here no more.”) or to not seek office. The disclosures here provide a means for ordinary citizens to monitor government officials’ decisions. Transparency provides for clean government, and for that reason, it seems to me that this is the right thing.
Today, Judge Marilyn Litzenberger dismissed Providence patients’ privacy claims for harms and losses resulting from the theft of computerized patient records. The case affects 350,000 patients. The motion to dismiss had been under consideration for a year. For the curious, the case is Gibson v. Providence Health System-Oregon, State of Oregon, Multnomah County Circuit Court Case No. 0601-01059.
Judge Litzenberger ruled that Oregon law did not provide a claim for Oregon patients affected by the loss. Paul & Sugerman represents the Providence patients.
At an early conference Judge Litzenberger had indicated that she was inclined to grant the motion to dismiss. She issued the decision on November 7, 2007.
When Providence first announced the security breach, it told its patients that they should take steps to protect themselves. Many patients went out and purchased identity theft protection service. Several weeks after the patients filed the lawsuit, Providence announced that it would make identity theft protection available. It eventually extended the theft protection for a second year.
It is fair to say that those of us who represent patients disagree with the judge’s ruling. After all, when you go to the doctor you expect that your private health history and confidential identity information will be protected. This didn’t happen.
The legal team is studying the opinion and considering its options. But for the present, it is a sad day for patients’ rights.
David F. Sugerman