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Privacy Rights of Individuals with HIV/AIDS Upheld in Important NJ Court Decision

By Strich Law Firm, Jul 21 2017 04:58PM

A recent decision in a New Jersey court affirmed the privacy rights of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the case of Smith v. Datla. The New Jersey law addressing the privacy of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is called the AIDS Assistance Act. First implemented in 1984 to address the spread of AIDS, this Act requires that all diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS and information regarding diagnosed individuals be reported to the Department of Health. In addition, the law states that any information about the individual and their diagnosis is confidential and can only be released for purposes defined by the Act. The confidential information can be obtained if prior written consent exists or can be accessed by individual’s executor, spouse, or primary caretaker only if the individual is legally incompetent or deceased. But for this latter provision, the executor, spouse or primary caregiver could not get medical information without permission from the court as part of a guardianship order.


The AIDS Assistance Act also allows individuals against whom this Act is violated to seek actual damages, equitable relief, reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs, and punitive damages if the violation shows wanton recklessness or intentionally malicious conduct.


In Smith v. Datla, the plaintiff, Smith, was under the medical care of Dr. Datla for kidney failure. During a consultation, Datla disclosed the information that Smith was HIV positive to an unidentified third party who was also in the room without prior consent. The plaintiff brought suit against Datla for invasion of privacy by public disclosure of private facts, medical malpractice, and violation of the AIDS Assistance Act. The plaintiff argued that his claims of personal injury should be subject a two-year statute of limitations. Statute of limitations are laws that place a maximum amount of time after an event occurs in which legal proceedings must be initiated. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s claims fell instead under the realm of defamation and should be subject to a one-year statute of limitations. However, the defamation cause of action requires that the publicized information be false; it was true here.


The court sided with the plaintiff in ruling that the defendant’s disclosure of the plaintiff’s HIV-positive status constituted an invasion of privacy, medical malpractice, and a violation of the AIDs Act, and agreed that the two-year statute of limitations applied. The precedent established by this case should allow more individuals to seek protection under this act and ensure that their rights to privacy are protected.


Comments: Strich Law Firm PC will initiate actions for defamation, violation of privacy and violation of the AIDS Assistance Act. If you, a family member or a friend need legal assistance in these areas, please call Strich Law Firm PC at 609-924-2900 or email us at info@strichlaw.com. But for the AIDS Assistance Act, families of patients with AIDS would be limited in getting medical information without the applicable Power of Attorney or Guardianship. Also, the AIDS Assistance Act has “teeth” in it for enforcement.


Call us at 609-924-2900 if you have a possible case or visit our web site at www.strichlaw.com.

Disclaimer: Any and all information contained on this site is for informational purposes, and should not be utilized as a substitute for a full, in-person consultation with a lawyer in your State and familiar with your circumstances. Strich Law Firm PC is in NJ and the comments relate to NJ only. Strich Law Firm, P.C. assumes no responsibility for any information contained on this site, and disclaims all liability in respect of such information. In addition, no part of this site shall be deemed to form any contract between Strich Law Firm, P.C. and anyone viewing this site.


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