Lawsuit filed over stolen hospital records

By Michael McFall

A former U patient is threatening to file a class action lawsuit against the U after the school revealed that a box containing billing records for roughly 2.2 million hospital and clinic patients was stolen.

Former U patient Patrick M. Beamish filed a lawsuit June 11 with the Third District Court claiming negligence against Perpetual Storage Inc., the moving company hired to transport the records to an off-site vault. The records contain 1.3 million social security numbers and put those patients at risk for potential identity theft.

A second notice of claim will be filed against the U later this week, said Karra Porter, a lawyer from Christensen & Jensen, the firm representing Beamish.

Beamish’s lawyers originally planned to file the claim Monday, but U lawyers requested to meet with them beforehand and discuss the legal situation. Porter and her team met with the U’s team Monday afternoon.

The claim against Perpetual Storage Inc. and the U are pretty much the same, Porter said. They expect the U to provide more legal protection for the situation’s potential victims of identity theft. The U is already offering a year of free credit monitoring and fraud alert, and issued letters to all affected patients informing them of the situation.

However, Porter and her team also want the U to provide legal counsel for any victims.

“With fraud alert, all you get is a phone call telling you what’s happened, and then leaves you to figure out what to do (from there),” Porter said.

Victims of identity theft who aren’t sure how to remedy their situation need better protection than that since the U is liable for their damage, she said.

The U announced June 11 that a Perpetual Storage Inc. courier picked up the records from the hospital using his own car instead of a company van. He then drove home with the records instead of delivering them to the off-site vault, and the records were stolen from his car overnight.

Porter’s team also wants the U to provide more than a year of services to potential victims, since identity thieves usually wait a while before taking advantage of the information.

“I had a friend who had her checks stolen…the thief didn’t use them until nine months later,” she said.

Porter herself had been the victim of identity theft. When she was visiting her father in Kansas, she left her wallet at a supermarket. She returned 15 minutes later and was relieved to find someone had returned it to the store clerk. However, she later received a call from the police telling her that someone had used $600 on her credit to buy flowers in order to stalk someone else.

Even if the billing records are recovered by the police or the FBI, Porter does not intend to drop the notice of claim. Identity theft can still occur, because the thieves can copy the information and use it later.

After the notice of claim is filed, it will need to be approved by the judge within 60 days. Porter said there is no telling how long the courts will take to approve the claim, but its possible that it will happen sooner rather than later due to the high-profile nature of the case.

This suit against the U is better financially for the state, she said. Instead of every potential victim of identity theft going through the same legal process as Christensen and Jensen, the state and the U can deal with the situation for every potential victim as one case.

Christopher Nelson, director of public affairs for University Health Care, said the U is doing what it can to be proactive in protecting its patients, and declined to comment on Beamish’s lawsuit until it had been filed.

Perpetual Storage Inc. has not responded to comment on the suit.

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