Interception of Hospital’s Internal Radio Transmission of Patient Private Health Information by Reporter Does Not Constitute Invasion of Privacy

On February 1, 2023, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment for Community Hospital of Anderson and Madison County (the “Hospital”), holding that Rubendall’s claims for negligence and invasion of privacy based on public disclosure of private facts failed as a matter of law pursuant to the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Community Health Network v. McKenzie, 185 N.E.3d 368 (Ind. 2023). Rubendall, on behalf of herself and similarly situated individuals, alleged that the Hospital’s use of an email-to-paper messaging system that transmitted protected health information of patients between Community departments using an unencrypted format over open radio airwaves invaded their privacy because a local news reporter was able to intercept and decode the transmissions (and informed Rubendall of such) by using freely available online software. Chief Judge Altice of the Court of Appeals affirmed the  summary judgment in favor of Community holding that the negligence claim seeking emotional distress damages fails to satisfy either the required modified impact rule or the bystander rule because the plaintiff did not have any physical impact.  The Court also held that public disclosure of a private facts claim, recognized as an actionable claim for the first time in McKenzie, failed to satisfy the publicity element because Community’s transmission of the protected health information through open radio airwaves between its departments was not disclosed “to, or in a way that was sure to reach, the public or a large number of people.” While the Court found in Community Hospital’s favor, this is stark reminder of need to use the most up to date technology to protect private information in health care and other settings.


James A. L. Buddenbaum has practiced law for more than 25 years with Parr Richey representing municipalities and businesses in utility, healthcare and general business sectors in both regulatory and transactional matters. Jim also has extensive experience in representing businesses in making large property damage and similar insurance claims.

The statements contained here are matters of opinion for general information purposes only and should not be considered by anyone as forming an attorney client relationship or advice for any particular legal matter of the reader. All readers should obtain legal advice for any specific legal matters.

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