HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

HIPAA Case Considers Law Enforcement Exception

Here's an interesting case via Vinson & Elkins' "Health Headlines":

In United States v. Zamora, a federal district court held that a subpoena signed by the clerk of the federal district court was not sufficient to compel a hospital to disclose a defendant's medical records without authorization. The government had served the hospital with the subpoena in connection with a criminal DWI case to obtain the results of a blood alcohol test performed on the date of the criminal incident. The court held that a subpoena signed by the clerk of a federal district court was insufficient to trigger HIPAA's law enforcement exception because the clerk was not a judicial officer for purposes of HIPAA. In addition, the court rejected the applicability of a federal statute requiring confidentiality of substance abuse records maintained in connection with a federally assisted drug and alcohol program, finding that participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs generally did not turn a hospital emergency room into a federally assisted program within the meaning of the statute and applicable regulations. Ultimately, the court issued a court order commanding the hospital to disclose the records on the grounds that the government had established probable cause justifying their production.

The opinion is available here: Zamora.pdf[tm]

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