to S.C. reporter 2/14/17
Plaintiff, Joseph Miller, a former inmate, filed a complaint
against defendant, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction ("ODRC"). Plaintiff asserted while he
was housed at defendant's Marion Correctional Institution
("MCI"), on March 13, 2015, his medication was
given to another inmate. Due to this negligent action on part
of defendant's prison personnel, fellow inmates now know
he is Human Immune-deficiency Virus ("HIV")
Plaintiff related due to the dissemination of this
information to prison staff and fellow inmates he has
suffered anxiety, fear, humiliation and depression for which
he seeks damages in the amount of $9, 925.00. Plaintiff
submitted the $25.00 filing fee.
Defendant submitted an investigation report acknowledging
that plaintiff's medication was accidentally given to
another inmate. However, defendant asserted as the result of
the disclosure plaintiff did not suffer physical injury or
damage. Defendant further contended that plaintiff has failed
to state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional
distress because his distress was not severe or debilitating.
Furthermore, plaintiff failed to offer evidence that other
inmates knew of his condition and since plaintiff was
released from prison on July 26, 2016, he "is no longer
around any people who allegedly know his medical
Plaintiff submitted a response stating defendant's
negligence caused another inmate to have knowledge of his HIV
condition. Plaintiff contended after his condition was
exposed he "was harassed refused certain living
arrangements and staff tampered with me urine test to get me
rode out of the institution."
"In Ohio, an independent tort exists for the
unauthorized, unprivileged disclosure to a third party of
nonpublic medical information that a physician or hospital
has learned within a physician-patient relationship."
Biddle v. Warren Gen. Hosp., 86 Ohio St.3d 395,
1999-Ohio-115, 715 N.E.2d 518, paragraph one of the syllabus.
The Supreme Court of Ohio recognized the tort in
Biddle based upon the policy that "[i]n
general, a person's medical records are confidential.
Numerous state and federal laws recognize and protect an
individual's interest in ensuring that his or her medical
information remains so." Hageman v. Southwest Gen.
Health Ctr, 119 Ohio St.3d 185, 2008-Ohio-3343, 893
N.E.2d 153, ¶ 9. "Indeed, even a prison
inmate's personal medical records are qualified protected
from disclosure and are not 'public' records per
se." Wilson v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. Corr., 73
Ohio App.3d 496, 499, 597 N.E.2d 1148 (10th Dist.1991).
The Tenth District Court of Appeals has rejected the argument
that "'unauthorized' disclosure under
Biddle equates to 'intentional'
disclosure." Scott v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. and
Corr., 10th Dist. No. 12AP-755, 2013-Ohio-4383, ¶
29. In Scott, the court determined that
"supervised inmate access to trash containing unshredded
medical documents does not constitute 'disclosure'
for purposes of the tort of unauthorized disclosure of
medical information as defined by Biddle"
Scott. However, the court of appeals noted that, under
certain circumstances, inadvertent disclosure might fulfill
the elements of Biddle. Scott at ¶ 30.
In the case at bar, defendant acknowledged that
plaintiff's HIV medication was given to another inmate by
defendant's medical staff. In this case, defendant failed
to protect plaintiffs confidential medical information from
disclosure by giving another inmate plaintiffs prescription.
Plaintiffs prescription contained his name and inmate number.
Furthermore, in light of "the known propensity of some
inmates to ingeniously and maliciously exploit any
opportunity for leverage over staff or fellow inmates, "
the court finds that it was foreseeable that allowing an
inmate to have access to confidential medical information
would lead to the disclosure of the information contained
therein. Scott at ¶ 30. Therefore, under the
circumstances presented in this case, the court finds that
allowing another inmate to receive plaintiffs prescription
for HIV medications constitutes unauthorized disclosure for
the purposes of the tort of unauthorized disclosure of
confidential medical information as defined in
While plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $9, 925.00,
plaintiff has presented no evidence as to the extent of his
emotional distress. In Jane Doe v. Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction, 2012-08575 (8-6-14)
adopted jud (11-19-14), the court determined damages in the
amount of $7, 500.00 were reasonable for the violation of the
duty under 07-ORD-11, access in confidentiality in medical
and mental health and recovery services. In Doe,
plaintiff suffered harassment by fellow inmates, was severely
depressed, experienced weight loss, discontinued exercise,
work and recreational activities resulting in suicidal
Based upon the totality of evidence, the court finds that
plaintiff is entitled to damages attributable to the
unauthorized disclosure in the amount of $6, 000.00.
Accordingly, plaintiff is granted judgment in the amount of
$6, 025.00, which includes the filing fee paid by plaintiff.