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March 17, 2011

Evidence lawfully obtained may be used to initiate an investigation of an employee even if similar information was received in violation of law

Evidence lawfully obtained may be used to initiate an investigation of an employee even if similar information was received in violation of law
Matter of Lomax v Kelly, 2011 NY Slip Op 01894, Appellate Division, First Department

Richard Lomax, a New York City probationary police officer, was off-duty with a fellow officer when the vehicle he was driving skidded on ice and rear-ended another car. Lomax called 911 to report the accident.

The occupants of the other vehicle, however, attacked the officers resulting in Lomax sustaining serious head injuries.

In the course of prosecuting the assailants, an Assistant District Attorney discovered that Lomax's medical records indicated that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. This was reported to a NYPD sergeant, who then reported the finding to the Internal Affairs Bureau and ultimately Lomax was terminated.

Lomax challenged his dismissal from his position. In considering Lomax’s appeal, the Appellate Division said that “Even assuming that the Assistant District Attorney violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [HIPPA]* upon disclosing the contents of [Lomax’s] medical records to the NYPD, [NYPD] properly relied on records lawfully obtained from an independent source to conduct the [Internal Affairs] investigation.”

The Appellate Division, sustaining his termination as a probationary employee, ruled that the medical records used by NYPD showing that Lomax was driving while intoxicated provided “a rational basis for his dismissal as a probationary police officer and established that the termination was not made in bad faith.”

*
N.B. As to such disclosure by the Assistant Attorney General, HIPPA’s privacy rules require “that health plans, health care clearinghouses, and certain health care providers guard against misuse of individuals' identifiable health information and limit the sharing of such information” [see Public Law 104-191; Title II, Subtitle F; Part C--Administrative Simplification, §1171, Definitions, posted on the Internet at http://www.cms.gov/HIPAAGenInfo/Downloads/HIPAALaw.pdf ].

The Lomax decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_01894.htm
.

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