United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
before the Court is Defendant Alliance Health Partners,
LLC's motion for summary judgment . Upon due
consideration, the Court finds the motion should be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
February 1, 2016, Plaintiff Hannah McCullar
("Plaintiff') filed this diversity/personal injury
action against Defendant Alliance Health Partners, LLC
("Defendant") in the Circuit Court of Clay County.
On April 22, 2016, Defendant timely removed the action to
this Court. Subsequently, on April 27, 2016, Defendant filed
its answer to the complaint. On February 22, 2017, Defendant
filed the present motion for summary judgment . Plaintiff
filed a response in opposition. Defendant has not filed a
reply, and the time for doing so has now passed. The matter
is now ripe for review.
asserts causes of action against Defendant for invasion of
privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a
claim under Mississippi statutory law for the improper
disclosure of Plaintiffs medical records. Plaintiff also
asserts that she is entitled to punitive damages for
"Defendant's actions, [which Plaintiff claims] are
so malicious, intentional, willful, wanton, and outrageous,
with no legitimate purpose except to harm Plaintiff...."
Pl.'s State-Ct. Compl.  ¶ 8.
following facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff gave birth to a
child and then placed her child for adoption at New
Beginnings International Children and Family Services, Inc.
(the "adoption agency"). The biological father of
the child is Markevius Frost. Mr. Frost asserted his
paternity, and the adoption agency instituted a legal action
against Mr. Frost to terminate his parental rights in the
Chancery Court of Lee County in a case styled New
Beginnings International Children's and Family Services,
Inc. v. Markevius Frost, No. 2012-1071-41-MM. Attorney
Christinia Townsend represented Mr. Frost in that proceeding.
During her legal representation of Mr. Frost, Ms. Townsend
issued a subpoena duces tecum to Defendant for the
medical records of the minor child and of Plaintiff for a
hearing on February 6, 2015. Defendant furnished a certified
copy of the medical records to Ms. Townsend. Plaintiff was
not a party to the chancery court proceeding. The chancery
court hearing was continued; the medical records were not
entered into evidence.
alleges that Ms. Townsend subpoenaed Plaintiffs medical
records from Defendant without providing a Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA")
authorization and without notice to Plaintiff of the same.
Pl.'s State-Ct. Compl.  ¶ 4. Plaintiff further
alleges that Defendant "is required to obtain a [HIPAA]
authorization before disclosing the private, confidential
records of a patient, " but that instead of doing so,
Defendant published Plaintiffs private, confidential medical
records to Ms. Townsend via United States mail instead of
forwarding them sealed to the court listed on the subpoena
duces tecum. Id. ¶¶ 5-7. Plaintiff further
asserts that Ms. Townsend improperly showed the medical
records to at least four individuals during the chancery
court proceeding (apparently, Dan Davis, the attorney for the
adoption agency; Brian Starling, the guardian ad
litem for the minor child; and legal staff in Mr.
Davis' office); Plaintiff maintains that Ms. Townsend
"intentionally published [Plaintiffs] medical records
during a television press conference." Pl.'s Resp.
Opp'n to Def.'s Mot Summ. J.  at 3,
Defendant contends that Mr. Frost gave an interview to a
local television station and showed the interviewer a copy of
his DNA results establishing the paternity of the minor
child. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J.  ¶ 10. Both parties
agree that during the broadcast, there was a brief display of
a portion of a document; Plaintiff contends that the document
was her own medical record. Id; Pl.'s Resp.
Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J.  at 5. Plaintiff
contends that she "never knew about the disclosure of
her medical records until one of the attorneys in the
[c]hancery [c]ourt matter informed her, after the disclosures
occurred." Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n to Def.'s Mot.
Summ. J.  at 3 n.3. Plaintiff argues that "[n]one of
[Ms.] Townsend's actions of publishing [Plaintiffs]
medical records would have been possible had [Defendant] not
wrongfully produced the records to [Ms, ] Townsend."
Id. at 5.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Defendant argues
that Plaintiffs claims must be dismissed as a matter of law.
Summary Judgment Standard
Court grants summary judgment "if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law." See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Weaver v. CCA Indus.,
Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). The rule
"mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate
time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails
to make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial."
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.
party moving for summary judgment bears the initial
responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for its
motion and identifying those portions of the record it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact. See Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Under
Rule 56(a), the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to
"go beyond the pleadings and by .. . affidavits, or by
the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, ' designate 'specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' "
Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548; Littlefield v.
Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir.
2001); Willis v. Roche Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61
F.3d 313, 315 (5th Cir. 1995). Where, as here, the parties
dispute the facts, the Court must view the facts and draw
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378,
127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). "However, a nonmovant may not overcome the
summary judgment standard with conclusional allegations,
unsupported assertions, or presentation of only a scintilla
of evidence." McClure v. Boles, 490 F.App'x
666, 667 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Hathaway v.
Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)).
Analysis and Discussion
argues in its motion for summary judgment that Plaintiffs
claims must be dismissed for the following reasons: (1) HIPAA
does not create a private action; (2) Plaintiff does not have
a separate cause of action under Mississippi Code
§§ 41-9-103 and 41-9-105, as any liability imposed
on Defendant would be for an alleged invasion of privacy for
failure to comply with Mississippi statutory law on the
subpoena duces tecum; (3) Plaintiff has failed to
present proof on the elements of her invasion of privacy
claim; and (4) Plaintiff has no grounds for recovery under
other Mississippi statutes, such as Mississippi Code §
13-1-21, concerning liability for communicating privileged
communication, as there is no evidence of willful, reckless,
or wanton acts or omissions as are required to sustain such a
cause of action.
concedes she has no cause of action under HIPAA and does not
present any argument in support of a separate claim under
Mississippi Code §§ 41-9-103 and 41-9-105. However,
she contends that she has causes of action for invasion of
privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
improper release of records in violation of Mississippi Code
§ 13-1-21. Plaintiff further maintains that Defendant
violated HIPAA regulations by submitting the requested
medical records without notice to the patient of the request
for records and an opportunity for the patient to object.
See 45 C.F.R. § 164.512. The Court looks to the
elements of each cause of action in turn.