Not so fast: A pivotal court ruling suggests a hospital at the centre of a privacy breach – as well as unnamed RESP dealers – could be on the hook after all.
A class-action lawsuit WP was following late in 2014 could be back on the front burner after the Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this week granted patients the right to sue hospitals over privacy breaches.
To refresh your memory WP published several stories in November and December outlining a series of privacy breaches that led to the dismissal of two employees of the Rouge Valley Hospital in Toronto.
Caught up in this total disregard for patient privacy was one or more RESP dealers who bought lists allegedly compiled by former hospital employee Shaida Bandali.
At the time securities law expert Harold Geller suggested that the real villain in this particular case wasn’t Bandali but rather the dealer or dealers that bought the lists.
“The dealer’s actions,” said Geller, “undermine the credibility of all registered dealers and the way they deal with obtaining leads. One bad apple is a very, very serious matter.”
WP wondered why the dealer(s) remained nameless
—perhaps this week’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal helps revisit this black mark on the securities industry.
In this latest case the Peterborough Regional Health Centre is the defendant in a $5.6 million privacy class action lawsuit that originates from a privacy breach between 2011 and 2012 that ultimately resulted in seven staff members losing their jobs.
The key point in the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss the case brought by the hospital was that the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) doesn’t trump the jurisdiction of the courts.
Michael Crystal, the lawyer for these patients, said of the decision, “The highest court in Ontario has spoken and said invasion of personal health information is not something that is simply the domain of the privacy Commissioner.”
It’s possible that the Peterborough Regional Health Centre will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. It has 60 days to file. Crystal feels the hospital will appeal which means a decision by the top court whether it will hear the case could take six months and then another 12 months if the appeal is allowed by the court.
Class actions, unfortunately, take a long time to work their way through the courts.
Not only is Michael Crystal happy with the decision, so too is Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Bryan Beamish, who stated, “This was a really important issue to get judicial guidance on.”
Perhaps the court’s move to reaffirm an individual’s right to take civil action in instances of breach of privacy will push Ontario to strengthen its privacy laws.
And while the Rouge Valley class action won’t proceed much further until the Peterbourough situation is fully resolved, the writing on the wall suggests those hurt by RESP-gate will have their day in court.
Just not tomorrow.