Court of Appeals: Patient in 2007 TB/CDC scare can go ahead with lawsuit

I am not litigation-happy, but I am really glad to read this news from The Associated Press:

The Atlanta man who was thrust into the center of a 2007 international tuberculosis scare won a major legal victory Friday when a federal appeals court allowed his lawsuit to move forward claiming health officials publicized his condition to make an example out of him.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that Andrew Speaker didn’t show enough evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was to blame for the breach in Speaker’s privacy.

The three-judge panel found that there was enough evidence to “raise a reasonable inference, and thus a plausible claim, that the CDC was the source of the disclosures at issue.”

Read more of their coverage on NECN.  They provide a nice recap of the history of the case.

I’ve covered this privacy breach since it first occurred in 2007. Earlier coverage can be found in the Chronicles of Dissent, on (here and here) and on this site.

Andrew Speaker’s case is one of those privacy cases where significant harm has occurred to his marriage, his livelihood, and his reputation as a result of breaching his right to medical privacy. There are those who will undoubtedly argue that public health and “the greater good” outweighed his right to privacy. But when all the facts are disclosed — including any errors that may have been made about how serious a risk he posed to himself or others — then we can all sit down and remind ourselves that privacy protections were put in place for good reasons.

I do not know whether it was a CDC official who breached confidentiality or if it was a member of law enforcement who would have known his identity or his own father-in-law who was involved in the case.  Nor do I know if Speaker will be able to get a court to compel the reporter to identify the anonymous source who outed Speaker or whether he’s even suing the right party.  But I do think he’s entitled to find out who revealed his identity and to be compensated for any needless harm he may have suffered.

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