On July 26, 2013, an Indiana jury awarded Abigail Hinchy $1.8 million for damages suffered as a result of a Walgreen Co. pharmacist, Audra Peterson, impermissibly accessing and exposing her confidential medical records. The Marion County Superior Court jury found that Peterson acted as a Walgreen employee when infringing upon Hinchy’s privacy in violation of both law and company policy.
Peterson appears to have been accessing Hinchy’s files for personal reasons. Hinchy was previously involved with Peterson’s husband. After Peterson learned of this fact, she allegedly used Walgreen’s computer system to access Hinchy’s prescription records and reported her findings to her husband. Peterson’s husband then alerted Hinchy that her medical records may have been compromised, which prompted Hinchy to call the pharmacy and file a complaint. Peterson allegedly accessed Hinchy’s medical records a second time following Hinchy’s complaint. Hinchy filed suit in August 2011.
Marion County Circuit Judge David J. Dreyer ruled that Indiana law supports a tort claim arising from public disclosure of private information, and he further ruled that Peterson’s disclosure of Hinchy’s health information to Peterson’s husband constitutes public disclosure. Judge Dreyer also determined that, in order to establish whether Walgreen should be held responsible for Peterson’s actions, a jury would have to decide whether her actions were sufficiently associated with Walgreen authorized activities. After a four day trial, the jury found that Walgreen was 80% at fault, meaning that Walgreen owes $1.44 million of the total verdict. Walgreen has said that it will appeal this finding.