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Cox v. Valley Hope Association

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

September 6, 2016

ROBERT COX, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
VALLEY HOPE ASSOCIATION, Defendant.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Valley Hope Association's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. 14]. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Defendant Valley Hope Association is a healthcare corporation that offers drug, alcohol, and addiction treatment services. In its capacity as a healthcare provider, Valley Hope maintains patient medical information, including sensitive information regarding a patient's treatment and identification. Valley Hope posts the following “Privacy and Confidentiality” notice on its website:

As a drug and alcohol treatment provider we are covered by two distinct federal laws that protect the privacy and confidentiality of information about your health, health care, and payment for services related to your health.
1. Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Information (42 C.F.R. Part 2):
42 C.F.R. Part 2 protects health information that identifies you as being a patient in a drug or alcohol program, or as having a drug or alcohol problem. This includes persons who have applied for, participated in, or received an interview, counseling, or any other service from a federally assisted alcohol or drug abuse program. This means that we may not acknowledge to a person outside of the program whether you are a current or former patient, nor can we disclose any information identifying you as an alcohol or drug abuser (except under certain conditions which are outlined in this notice).
2. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Regulations (45 C.F.R. Parts 160 and 164): HIPAA protects all health information which identifies an individual, not just drug and alcohol information.

[Doc. 1-2, pp. 3-4, ¶ 10].

         On December 30, 2015, a laptop computer owned by Valley Hope was stolen from an employee's vehicle. The laptop contained private treatment and identification information for about 52, 076 patients. While the laptop was secured with a password, the information stored on the device was not encrypted.

         Two months afterwards, in February 2016, Valley Hope sent a letter to patients- including Plaintiff Robert Cox-informing them of the theft. Cox then filed suit in Missouri state court on March 17, 2016 on behalf of a putative class of similarly-situated individuals. His complaint asserts the following counts:

I. Violation of Missouri's Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA)
II. Breach of Fiduciary Duty
III. Breach of Contract
IV. Negligent Training, Hiring, and ...

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