ESPN obtained — and published — a medical record regarding the amputation of Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s right index finger. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s likely that legal action will be taken against the person who leaked the document to ESPN.
The investigation will begin with the hospital that generated the records. While some have cited HIPAA as the basis for a lawsuit against the hospital, HIPAA does not permit a private legal action for the violation of its terms. Instead, any claims against the hospital would be made under Florida privacy laws. Over the years, large verdicts have been awarded against health-care providers that released private patient information.
As to ESPN, there’s nothing wrong with receiving the information. Reporting that the finger was being amputated also likely wouldn’t have been a problem, since it’s information that inevitably would have become publicly known. This specific case takes on a different feel because of the publication of the document for all of Adam Schefter’s 3.8 million Twitter followers to see, especially since there was no need to do it.
It’s unknown whether ESPN lawyers specifically approved the release of the document. Most reasonable lawyers would have said, “Why do we need to show anyone the document? What do we gain from that? Just report that the finger is being amputated. Who will doubt that?”
Given that some lawyers will sue anyone and everyone whose fingerprints are on a given case in the hopes that the defendants will fight amongst themselves, there’s reason for ESPN to worry about this one, at least a little bit. Which is all the more reason to have not posted the image of the medical record.
Ultimately, Pierre-Paul has to sign off on any lawsuit. For now, it’s safe to say he will be urged by those close to him to do it, at least as it relates to whoever leaked the document.