CVS, one of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical benefit managers, disclosed the HIV status of 6,000 patients enrolled in the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program (“OhDAP”), which provides assistance to low-income patients, according to a new class action lawsuit.
In July of 2017, CVS mailed a letter containing membership cards and information about the OhDAP program to an estimated 6,000 participants. The envelopes contained a clear glassine window that displayed the recipient’s name and address, with the designation “PM 6402 HIV” directly above the recipient’s name, according to the lawsuit. The reference to the recipient’s HIV status was plainly visible through the glassine window.
As noted in the lawsuit:
“The Defendants’ use of a glassine-windowed envelope, and their design of the letter containing the HIV status of the individual recipient such that it could be seen through that envelope … resulted in the disclosure of recipients’ HIV status to numerous individuals, including their families, friends, roommates, landlords, neighbors, mail carriers, and complete strangers.”
The disclosure of patient HIV status violates Ohio Rev. Code section 3701.243. The John Doe plaintiffs—who have brought the class action anonymously to protect their privacy—seek an injunction against CVS barring CVS from using a glassine envelope in the future for any communications where the HIV status of any individuals is referenced in any way. The Plaintiffs also seek compensation for the members of the class and punitive damages against CVS to discourage future public disclosures.
As noted in the complaint, people with HIV are still subject to stigma, humiliation, mental anguish, embarrassment, and stress based on their HIV status. They may also run the risk of the loss of housing, relationships, and employment when their HIV status is revealed.
A 2012 national survey by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that fewer than half of respondents would feel “very comfortable” working with someone who has HIV or AIDS, or having a teacher for their children who has HIV or AIDS. Only a third would feel “very comfortable” with having a roommate who is HIV-positive, and fewer than a quarter would feel “very comfortable” having food prepared by someone who is HIV-positive. Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation, 2012 Survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS.
The case, John Doe 1 et al. v. CVS Health Corporation et al. was filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.
The Law Office of Terry L. Kilgore has been servicing the civil and criminal needs of Ohio’s LGBT and HIV communities for the past three decades specializing in criminal defense and personal-injury matters.
The lawyers of Whatley Kallas, LLP have been repeatedly recognized in legal publications, such as The National Law Journal and American Lawyer, by their peers and by leaders of organized medicine for their work in the healthcare field. For more information, go to: http://www.whatleykallas.com/.
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