NC: Court upholds dismissal of OMH lawsuit

Lindell Kay reports that a privacy of invasion lawsuit against a hospital was correctly dismissed because autopsy records are public information:

The N.C. Appeals Court this week upheld a decision that Onslow Memorial Hospital employees did not violate the privacy rights of a murdered woman’s family by allegedly passing around her autopsy X-rays in 2009.

Cynthia Louise Tillet-Knighten was beaten to death by Clarence Douglas Phillips — a boyfriend with a violent criminal history — in Bridgeton in April 2009.


Shortly after her death, family members sued the hospital for violation of privacy, claiming that employees with access to Tillett-Knighten’s autopsy records shared X-rays with other employees not authorized to view them.


The family sued based on intrusion. The high court has determined intrusion to be: physically invading a person’s home or other private place, eavesdropping by wiretapping or microphones, peering through windows, persistent telephoning, unauthorized prying into a bank account and opening someone’s personal mail.

The family claimed hospital employees intruded on their privacy by sharing the X-rays, but the Appeals Court ruled the family could not have a privacy interest in autopsy X-rays since they are public information.

N.C. General Statute 130 A allows anyone to examine original autopsy materials providing they are supervised and do not make copies.


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