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Court Gives Go-Ahead To HIV Disclosure Case

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A woman who has HIV can pursue a lawsuit stemming from the alleged disclosure of her diagnosis by an employee of a primary-care clinic, a state appeals court ruled Monday.

The 1st District Court of Appeal overturned part of a decision by a Duval County circuit judge who dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed by a woman identified in the ruling only as Jane Doe. A physician for Baptist Primary Care Inc., in 2006 diagnosed the woman as having HIV and began treatment.

The woman chose to keep the diagnosis private and in 2007 contacted Baptist Primary Care for a referral and provided insurance-related information, according to Monday's ruling. An employee of Baptist Primary Care, however, allegedly disclosed to her boyfriend that Jane Doe was HIV-positive.

The ruling said the employee's boyfriend coincidentally worked for the same company as Jane Doe's husband. The husband was later asked to drop his wife from a company health-insurance plan and was terminated after refusing to do so, the ruling said.

The lawsuit alleged a violation of privacy because of the disclosure and alleged that Baptist Primary Care was negligent in training and supervision of employees. The circuit judge dismissed the case, but the appeals court said Monday that Jane Doe should be able to pursue the negligence allegation.

A three-judge panel found that the circuit judge incorrectly treated the negligence allegation as medical-malpractice claim. In doing so, the circuit judge ruled that Jane Doe had not met a statute-of-limitations requirement and a pre-suit notice requirement under the state's medical-malpractice laws.

But the appeals court said the lawsuit was not a malpractice case, concluding the alleged improper disclosure did not stem from the "provision of a medical diagnosis, treatment, or care to (Jane Doe), but from simple negligence."