Shortly after Jason Pierre-Paul damaged his hand in a July 4 fireworks incident, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out an image of the New York Giant’s chart from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, confirming that the defensive end had a finger amputated. At the time, many wondered if Schefter was actually allowed to do that, and while the reporter was not in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Wednesday brought news that Pierre-Paul has filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Schefter and ESPN.
As first reported by the New York Post, Pierre-Paul filed his suit in Florida. “This action arises out of ESPN reporter Schefter’s blatant disregard for the private and confidential nature of plaintiff’s medical records, all so Schefter could show the world that he had ‘supporting proof’ of a surgical procedure.” the legal filing claims.
ESPN obtained medical charts that show Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today. pic.twitter.com/VI5cbS1uCw
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 8, 2015
A few days after posting the image, Schefter told Sports Illustrated that “in a day and age in which pictures and videos tell stories and confirm facts, in which sources and their motives are routinely questioned, and in which reporters strive to be as accurate as possible, this was the ultimate supporting proof.” The NFL reporter also said that he “never once requested” the image of the chart, but that it was brought to his attention.
However, Schefter admitted this to SI: “In hindsight I could and should have done even more here due to the sensitivity of the situation.” He added, “On this one, there should have been even more discussion than there was due to the sensitivity of the story; that’s on me.”
Earlier in February, the Miami hospital fired two employees for improperly accessing Pierre-Paul’s records (per NJ.com). A statement by Jackson Memorial indicated that it had reached a settlement with the defensive end, and it said that “protecting the privacy of our patients is a top priority at Jackson Health System.”
Michael McCann, a legal analyst for Sports Illustrated and other media outlets, said Wednesday, via Twitter, that the lawsuit would a “hard case to win” for Pierre-Paul. “HIPAA doesn’t extend to media and invasion of privacy claims by public figures usually don’t work,” McCann wrote.
According to Pierre-Paul’s filing, a copy of which was posted at Deadspin, he is asking for at least $15,000 in damages, excluding costs associated with the suit. Schefter’s “disclosure of the Chart constitutes a violation” of a Florida statute governing doctor-patient confidentiality, the suit claims, and “because the Hospital disclosed the Chart to Schefter, he was prohibited from further disclosing it or any information therein without the expressed written consent of Plaintiff or Plaintiff’s legal representative, which consent was never sought or obtained.”