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Probate case leads to new privacy standards in Connecticut

The probate courts of Connecticut are designed to make important functions of state law accessible to the people who needs them. Many of these functions involve children, senior citizens, people with intellectual disabilities and others who cannot fully manage their own legal and personal needs.

Probate proceedings are vital to assigning responsibility for people who need help, as well as managing the estates of people who have passed away. Although many of these cases involve assignment of legal guardians of private records, care must be taken to safeguard legal privacy when dealing with probate courts.

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that patients can bring suit against their health care provider if they disclose medical records without permission. The case follows an incident in which a probate court was directly sent medical records in connection to a paternity suit it was adjudicating.

The provider was sued for negligence and breach of contract when it disregarded a subpoena requiring the custodian of the records to appear before the probate court. The records were mailed to the probate court in New Haven instead, breaching the patient's privacy.

This ruling puts Connecticut in the company of many other states, including neighboring New York and Massachusetts, in affirming a patient's right to sue health care providers over breaches of confidentiality.

Proceedings in probate court and preparations for these proceedings may be easier and more efficient for parties to cases with legal representation. A lawyer can help plaintiffs, defendants, conservators and other parties to probate cases save time and discover their best options.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, "Connecticut Supreme Court allows patients to sue providers for HIPAA violations," Evan Sweeney, Jan. 15, 2018

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