A Georgia Case – HIPAA for Pa. Lawyers?

I have authored a newsletter primarily summarizing Pennsylvania appellate court decisions for over two decades. Every once in a while I include cases from other states. The January 2009 newsletter includes a Georgia Supreme Court case. Why?

The Georgia case, Moreland v. Austin, is important because it is one of the few cases addressing HIPAA ( the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the context of personal injury/malpractice litigation. In Moreland, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on November 3, 2008 that HIPAA’s Privacy Rule  precludes a defendant’s attorney from informally interviewing a plaintiff’s prior treating physicians in a medical malpractice action. The Court specifically found that “[a]fter reviewing HIPAA, Georgia law, and the case law of other jurisdictions … HIPAA preempts Georgia law with regard to ex parte communications between defense counsel and plaintiff’s prior treating physicians because HIPAA affords patients more control over their medical records when it comes to informal contacts between litigants and physicians.” This is a well-written opinion that has implications in litigation throughout the country, including Pennsylvania.

It’s safe to say that Georgia cases aren’t cited often in the Keystone State; Moreland may well be the exception.