Wrongful Disclosure of HIV Status Falls Under Two-Year Limitation

In New Jersey, it has been ruled that wrongful disclosure of HIV status to a third party falls under the two-year statute of limitations in the state. The HIV-positive patient has alleged that one of his doctors disclosed his medical status to another party without his consent. A New Jersey appeals court ruled that the suit should be dismissed as time-barred based on a one-year statute of limitations. However, the one-year statute of limitations was based on being classified as a defamation case.

While the defending doctor argued this was a defamation case, the three-judge Appellate Division panel argued it was more akin to a personal injury or discrimination case and should have the two-year statute of limitations instead. The decision was based on the dispute arising from a single incident on July 25, 2013. In the incident, a patient was being treated for acute kidney failure by the defendant at a kidney treatment center in Hamilton.

While being treated, the doctor disclosed the HIV-positive status of the plaintiff to one of their long-time friends. Until that time, the friend was not aware of the HIV-positive status. The patient filed a suit in Mercer County Superior Court almost two years later, on July 1, 2015. According to the patient, his right to privacy was violated. He also alleged medical malpractice and wrongful disclosure of his medical status under New Jersey’s AIDS Assistance Act.

The defendant argued that this went past the one-year limitation on such as case, claiming it was a case of defamation. However, the plaintiff rebuffed, stating he was not claiming defamation but rather an allegation that is more closely related to personal injury or discrimination. The Superior Court Judge agreed with the plaintiff and denied the motion to dismiss the case. A case for defamation does not exist as the information shared with the third party was actually true.

However, patients have a clear right to privacy when it comes to their medical records and medical information. Courts often find that when there is a case for unauthorized disclosure of medical information, it aligns more closely with discrimination cases, especially when someone’s HIV status is involved. In these cases, a one-year statute of limitations has a clear threat of offering less protection to those who have had their privacy violated, particularly those who have AIDS or are HIV-positive.

If your medical information was disclosed without your permission, contact us today. Our team will work to ensure your right to privacy is protected and you receive justice.