Holtz & Reed Wins Summary Judgment for MGH

Posted on: Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Jay Sullivan, Patrick Foley, and Matt Wahrer of Holtz & Reed recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, resulting in the dismissal of all claims in an action brought against Massachusetts General Hospital by a former employee.  In the case, Lopez v. Massachusetts General Hospital, et al., an at-will hospital employee was fired after passing a counterfeit bill in a MGH café and subsequently failing to cooperate in the hospital’s investigation of its origin.  The employee sued the hospital for defamation, intentional inference with contractual relations, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy (based on her mistaken belief that identifying the patient who had given her the fake bill to MGH’s investigators would violate HIPAA).

In a 15-page decision, the Court found, in part, that MGH had not asked the plaintiff to violate HIPAA – “to the contrary,” wrote the Court, “HIPAA contains an exception that allows a covered entity to provide information that would ordinarily be protected ‘to a law enforcement official … [if] the covered entity believes in good faith that [the protected health information] constitutes evidence of criminal conduct that occurred on the premises of the covered entity.”

In a front page story about the case in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Jay Sullivan explained that “this decision is a reminder to employers that they have the discretion to investigate serious issues in the workplace and that the ruling is a lesson to the plaintiff’s bar that defamation and public policy claims in the employment context are difficult to win.”

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