FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Two Salem law firms who specialize in representing Massachusetts consumers in class action lawsuits, are collaborating in a Worcester case involving an alleged breach of security by a former employee of the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center.
Attorneys Robert E. Mazow of Mazow & McCullough, PC and John R. Yasi of Yasi & Yasi, PC, are researching all aspects of the wide and complex case which they filed on behalf of an individual who seeks to be representative of a class of persons similarly situated. The class of persons is defined as the roughly 2,400 persons whom, the hospital acknowledges, were sent written notification by the hospital in May of this year that they may have been victims of a security breach.
While the notification letter did reference that the fired employee was under investigation by authorities, further details only came to light this past week when the former employee, Katherine Benitez of Webster, was charged with multiple criminal counts involving allegations of identity fraud, larceny and conspiracy. She has pled not guilty to the charges. She is free on bail, but must wear a GPS monitor, not contact her alleged victims, surrender her passport, report to probation three times a week, and return to court for a pretrial hearing.
Meanwhile, Worcester-area police are seeking her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend, who reportedly may also be involved in the matter.
Attorneys Mazow and Yasi have been critical of the hospital’s limited response to the breach and assert that the response was a dramatically insufficient remedy under the circumstances of such an obviously serious breach. The victims’ attorneys point out that the hospital itself acknowledges that its former employee may have been inappropriately accessing and gathering patient information going back as far as 12 years. Moreover, the attorneys state that the hospital has refused to provide the victims with details about the dangers of potential medical identity theft which were detailed in a report which the lawyers’ retained privacy expert created for the benefit of their client, as well as the other victims.
Attorney Yasi states: “On behalf of our client we have gone to great lengths to educate him about what medical identity theft is and more importantly, to provide him the tools which will allow him to determine whether he may already be a victim or conversely, to prevent him from becoming a victim. We provided this information to the hospital’s attorneys as soon as it was prepared by the expert and urged the hospital to provide a copy of the report to all of the victims whom were notified of the breach back in May. Inexplicably, the hospital has refused to provide these persons this information. Moreover, the hospital’s only notification letter did not even use the term “medical identity theft”, let alone educate the victims that the breach may have exposed them to the crime of medical identity theft. Rather, the notification letter discussed only the possibility of the use of the information for purposes of personal identity theft and offered the victims only one year of free credit monitoring.”
The plaintiff’s attorneys contend that medical identity theft is an enormous problem throughout the country and the world. They assert it is a multibillion-dollar criminal industry wherein stolen medical identity information is used to make and collect on fraudulent insurance claims.
Yasi also states that “the statistics are staggering with respect to the amount of money which is paid out by Medicare and private health insurance companies yearly related to medical identity theft. Moreover, a victim of medical identity theft can face severe adverse problems from a physical standpoint, not just economic damages. For example, an imposter might illegally obtain expensive prescription medication which may lead to the victim being denied necessary prescription medication. Likewise, imposter information might taint a victim’s medical record with an incorrect diagnosis or blood type, problems which could have disastrous ramifications for a victim as he seeks continuing treatment for certain illnesses.”
Accordingly, the attorneys for the plaintiff will seek to be appointed class counsel as soon as possible in an effort to educate this class of 2,400 persons that they are at a dramatically increased risk of becoming victims of not only personal identity theft, but also medical identity theft.
Yasi states “in addition to educating these persons about the problem, we will, more importantly, provide them the necessary information which will allow them to monitor their medical identity very closely at every medical encounter so as to determine whether they might already be victims, or in an effort to avoid becoming victims.”
Attorneys Mazow and Yasi state that they have requested that the hospital meet with them in an attempt to mediate a resolution to this matter which fully educates and protects the victims of the breach, but that to date the hospital has refused such a meeting.