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C.E. v. Prairie Fields Family Med. P.C.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

March 14, 2014

C.E., APPELLANT,
v.
PRAIRIE FIELDS FAMILY MEDICINE P.C., APPELLEE

Page 57

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 58

Appeal from the District Court for Dodge County: GEOFFREY C. HALL, Judge.

Christopher A. Pfanstiel and W. Gregory Lake, of Lewis, Pfanstiel & Reed, L.L.C., for appellant.

Earl G. Greene III and Michael T. Gibbons, of Woodke & Gibbons, P.C., L.L.O., for appellee.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ. STEPHAN, J., not participating.

OPINION

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[287 Neb. 668] Connolly, J.

SUMMARY

C.E. appeals the district court's order granting summary judgment to Prairie Fields Family Medicine P.C. (Prairie Fields). C.E. brought claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. She alleged that a Prairie Fields employee disclosed her positive blood test results for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to a third party, which information then spread throughout the Fremont, Nebraska, community where C.E. did business and had friends.

The district court dismissed C.E.'s invasion of privacy claim because it was time barred. Later, it sustained Prairie Fields' summary judgment motion on C.E.'s claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The summary judgment order is the only ruling assigned as error on appeal. The issue is whether C.E. raised a genuine issue of material fact that someone at Prairie Fields disclosed information from her private medical records. We conclude that she did and that the district court erred in sustaining Prairie Fields' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

In 2010, C.E. went to a diagnostic laboratory in Omaha, Nebraska, to have a physical examination for a life insurance [287 Neb. 669] application, and the laboratory took a blood sample. The laboratory sent the blood sample to another laboratory, which sent the test results directly to C.E.'s physician at Prairie Fields in Fremont. Although C.E. was unsure of the exact date, sometime in September 2010, Prairie Fields arranged for C.E. to come in for a consultation. When C.E. arrived on a Thursday at about 3 or 4 p.m., Kristy Stout-Kreikemeyer, whom C.E. knew from high school, showed C.E. to a room. C.E. said that when she asked about her test results, Stout-Kreikemeyer looked in C.E.'s file, flushed, and responded that she could not say anything. The record shows that a physician's assistant told C.E. about her positive HIV test. C.E. said that she was told the test was inconclusive; she agreed to another test.

C.E. testified that the next day, Friday, at about 7 p.m., Jonathan Karr, the father of one of C.E.'s daughters, called her or sent text messages to ask how she was because he had heard from his friend Jamie Goertz that she had " 'Aids, full blown-out Aids.'" C.E. said Karr sent her the text message that he had received from Goertz. But Karr did not know who had given Goertz that information. C.E. had known Goertz since 2001, but she had not recently kept in contact with Karr or Goertz. C.E. said that she called Goertz to find out his source but that Goertz denied knowing anything about her medical condition and denied contacting Karr. Because C.E. had seen Goertz' text message to Karr, she believed that Goertz was lying to protect someone. C.E. had known Goertz since 2001 through his former wife, because C.E. had babysat their children.

On Monday, C.E. called her doctor at Prairie Fields to find out how this information could have been disclosed and asked him to question his staff. The doctor called C.E. later that week and said that none of his staff knew anything about the disclosure. But he assured C.E. that he had locked up her file and directed more training for his staff on privacy laws.

Page 60

In February 2012, C.E. filed her complaint. C.E. included Stout-Kreikemeyer as a defendant and alleged that she had disclosed C.E.'s test result to a third party. In July, the court sustained Prairie Fields' motion to dismiss C.E.'s invasion of privacy claim because the applicable statute of limitations [287 Neb. 670] barred the claim.[1] In September, Stout-Kreikemeyer testified in a deposition that although she knew C.E. in high school, she did not know Goertz or Karr. In October, in response to interrogatories, C.E. admitted that she was not sure whether Stout-Kreikemeyer was the person who had disclosed the information. She also admitted during her subsequent deposition that she did not know for certain whether Stout-Kreikemeyer or someone else at Prairie Fields had disclosed the information. C.E. believed it could have been Stout-Kreikemeyer because she had seen a social contact between her and Goertz on an Internet social media service.

But C.E. testified that she knew someone at Prairie Fields had disclosed the information. She testified that she had worked in insurance sales and had made specific inquiries. So she knew the life insurance company and the diagnostic laboratory in Omaha would not have received the test results. The Omaha laboratory's staff had told her the procedure is to send an applicant's blood sample to a different laboratory and then the other laboratory ...


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