JOHNNIE D. COOK Plaintiff
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION AND CORRECTION Defendant
to S.C. Reporter 4/30/18
Plaintiff, Johnnie D. Cook, an inmate, filed a complaint
against defendant, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction ("ODRC"). Plaintiff asserted that on
April 23, 2017, he submitted an Institutional Health Care
Slip to see a nurse concerning a medical problem. Plaintiff
claimed that his confidential medical information was shared
with correctional officers, who in turn shared it with his
fellow inmates, in violation of ODRC's polices and his
rights under the state of Ohio and United States
Constitution. He stated that he has been harassed by the
release of his medical information.
Plaintiff related that due to the dissemination of this
information to fellow inmates he has suffered depression,
humiliation, and cruel and unusual punishment for which he
seeks damages in the amount of $10, 000.00. Plaintiff was not
required to file the $25 filing fee.
Defendant submitted an investigation report, and argued that
plaintiff failed to provide any details to support his claim.
Specifically, defendant stated that plaintiff provided no
names of officers or nurses involved, or any evidence that
would support plaintiffs claims for $10, 000 in damages for
depression. Defendant attached the report from the
Institutional Inspector who could not do a proper
investigation into the matters alleged due to lack of
Plaintiff submitted a response and attached his Informal
Complaint Resolution ("ICR") which stated names of
those involved. In the ICR, plaintiff states that on April
23, 2017, the submitted a health care slip to Nurse Rayburn
and she gave it to CO Collum, who read the slip. CO Collum
then returned to the block and told all the inmates that
"my guts is hanging out due to my severe hernia
problem." The "action taken" portion of the
form, filled out by defendant's staff member, states that
the staff member spoke to Nurse Rayburn who stated that CO
Collum was in possession of his health care slip and the
staff member would address plaintiffs allegations with staff
per DRC policy 68-MED-01.
"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 rejected the argument
that "'unauthorized disclosure under Biddle
equates to 'intentional' disclosure." Scott
v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. & 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." Id. However, the court of appeals
noted that, under certain circumstances, inadvertent
disclosure might fulfill the elements of Biddle.
Scott at ¶ 30.
In this case, plaintiffs ICR confirms that Nurse Rayburn
stated that CO Collum possessed plaintiffs health care slip,
and that defendant's staff would address plaintiffs
allegations with staff per ODRC policy 68-MED-01. Thus,
contrary to the arguments in defendant's investigation
report, ODRC knew the names and conduct that gave rise to
plaintiff's claim for unauthorized, unprivileged
disclosure of medical information. Defendant failed to
respond to plaintiff's allegation that CO Collum told
inmates on plaintiff's block that "my guts is
hanging out due to my severe hernia problem."
The credibility of witnesses and the weight attributable to
their testimony are primarily matters for the trier of fact.
State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio St.2d 230, 227 N.E.2d 212
(1967), paragraph one of the syllabus. The court is free to
believe or disbelieve, all or any part of each witness's
testimony State v. Antill, 176 Ohio St. 61, 197
N.E.2d 548 (1964). The court finds plaintiff's account of
the dissemination of information persuasive. Therefore, under
the circumstances presented in this case, the court finds
that allowing a CO to disseminate medical information about
an inmate to his cell block constitutes the unauthorized
disclosure for the purposes of the tort of unauthorized
disclosure of confidential medical information as defined in
However, to the extent that any of plaintiff's claims can
be construed as constitutional claims against defendant, this
court does not have jurisdiction over those claims. It is
well-settled that the court of claims does not have
jurisdiction to hear constitutional claims brought against
the state. Bleicher v. Univ. of Cincinnati Coll. of
Med., 78 Ohio App.3d 302, 604 N.E.2d 783 (10th Dist.
While plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $10, 000.00,
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