Lawsuit Targets Privacy Violations, Facebook Posts from Staff at NY Institution

 keyboard with the word 'confidential' on a key

by Andy Jones
May 10, 2017

Disability Rights New York has filed a lawsuit against two staff members at a state Intermediate Care Facility, who allegedly released confidential information and spread false rumors on Facebook about a former resident.

“These defendants purposefully shared private information about a person with a disability who they were charged with protecting,” DRNY Executive Director Timothy A. Clune said in a news release [PDF]. “We are sending a clear message that there are consequences when you violate our client’s rights.”

The lawsuit is on behalf of an individual who lived at the Broome Development Center from 1996 to May 2014. The two named staff members worked closely with the individual, in their capacities as habilitative support worker and nurse.

In Facebook posts, the staff members disclosed the individual’s history as a resident the Center and falsely stated that he had raped and molested 11 children and was only not a registered sex offender because of his disability.

The rumors were completely false, as the individual had no prior sex convictions. However, in response to the Facebook posts, the individual was evicted from his apartment, lost his volunteer job at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, and suffered emotional distress.

In the complaint, filed in the state Supreme Court, Broome County, DRNY alleged violations under the state Mental Hygiene Law and HIPAA for the disclosure of his status as a former resident at the Center. They are also seeking damages for tort violations under the theories of negligence per se, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The 14-page complaint can be read here [PDF]. 

Disability Rights New York and Disability Rights Washington are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in New York and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.