New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DOE v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-018-575, Claim No. 110365


Based upon the failure to keep Claimant’s HIV status confidential in violation of Public Health Law § 27-F, the Court imposes the civil penalty of $2,000.

Case Information

1 1.The Court has changed the name of the Claimant sua sponte to protect Claimant’s privacy due to the sensitive subject matter of the claim.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :
The Court has changed the name of the Claimant sua sponte to protect Claimant’s privacy due to the sensitive subject matter of the claim.
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: EDWARD F. McARDLE, ESQUIREAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 9, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


At the time of the incident underlying the claim, Claimant was a parolee at the Willard Drug Treatment Center (hereinafter Willard) run by New York State Department of Correctional Services. Claimant was transferred to Willard from Elmira Correctional Facility on June 30, 2004. When he arrived at Willard, he was interviewed by a nurse who quickly reviewed his records, inquired whether he needed any medication, and checked for lice. The claim indicates that it was “[o]n or about July 2, 2004" Claimant went to the infirmary for sick call. At trial, Claimant testified that he was called out to the infirmary that day, and met with the same nurse he saw on June 30, 2004, in a large room along with five other parolees, a couple of correction officers and nurses. Claimant testified that the nurse was talking very loudly about his “viral loads” and he asked her to keep it down because it was confidential but she ignored his request. After he left the area, none of the other parolees at the infirmary would go near him; they were pointing and whispering. When he returned to the “barracks” another parolee came up to him and told him he had HIV, too.

As a result of this event, Claimant said he felt alone and depressed. He could not complete the Willard program and, as a result, his parole was violated and he was transferred to another facility until his release in May 2006.

On cross-examination, Claimant said he was not sure of exactly what day this incident occurred. He tried to remember the nurse’s name from her name tag and said he believed it began with an “X” and included it in the claim as “Xairnay.” Claimant was questioned whether he went to the infirmary for sick call on July 2. Claimant testified that he considered it sick call because it was at the infirmary, but he clarified that he did not ask to go to the infirmary that day, he was called out to go there.

Claimant said he spoke with Captain Reynolds about the incident, filed a grievance, and wrote to the Deputy Administrator and Superintendent at Willard. He didn’t receive any response despite Captain Reynolds saying he would look into the matter.

The State produced Louise A. Guzalak, a registered nurse and the nurse administrator at Willard. She oversees the nursing staff and emphasized that the nurses are trained to keep patients’ medical information confidential. A page of Claimant’s Ambulatory Health Record[2] was admitted into evidence and it covered the dates of June 30, 2004, July 1, 2004, and July 2, 2004. The notation in the records for June 30, 2003, signed by Nurse J. Williamson reflects that it was an “incoming draft.” The notation from July 1, 2004, signed by Nurse LaVarnway indicates Claimant wants “neurontin” and an inhaler. The notation from July 2, 2004, with similar writing to the June 30 entry, reflects Claimant’s HIV status, Hepatitis status, along with various testing results and Claimant’s complaints. The July 2, 2004 entry has no nurse’s signature. It was Defendant’s contention that the visit to which this claim refers is July 1, not July 2.

Ms. Guzalak had Ms. Lavarnway send a memo[3] responding to Claimant’s allegations. Ms. Lavarnway did not recall Claimant nor did she have his health record. Her statement indicates it was her custom and practice to keep patient information confidential.

Ms. Guzalak reviewed the sick-call records for Willard and indicated that Claimant did not attend sick call on July 2, although he did on July 1. Ms. Guzalak testified that on July 2, Claimant was called out to go to the infirmary. Ms. Guzalak testified that it was not sick call. Ms. Guzalak further testified that the nurses are trained to record what is discussed with the patient.

Based upon Claimant’s testimony that he was called down to the infirmary, it was not at his request, and during the visit his viral loads were discussed, and based upon the ambulatory health record which reflects that on July 2, Claimant’s HIV status and viral loads were discussed during that visit, the Court finds the incident Claimant complains about occurred on July 2. Claimant’s testimony regarding what transpired that day was completely uncontradicted.

Public Health Law, article 27-F addresses the confidentiality and disclosure of HIV- related information and provides a private right of action when a violation of this statute has occurred (Doe v Roe, 190 AD2d 463; Melendez v Strong Mem. Hosp., Univ. of Rochester, Inc., 9 Misc 3d 938; Matter of V. v State of New York, 150 Misc 2d 156; S.S. v State of New York, Cl. No. 102104, Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J., dated January 5, 2006, [UID #2006-018-497]). The statute restricts disclosure of HIV-related information to specific exceptions. None of the exceptions apply in this instance. The oral disclosure of Claimant’s confidential HIV-related information was unauthorized to other parolees in the infirmary and was an unauthorized disclosure under the statute.

Based upon the failure to keep Claimant’s HIV status confidential, in violation of Public Health Law § 27-F, the Court imposes the civil penalty of $2,000 to Claimant, and it is

ORDERED, that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2).


July 9, 2007
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[2].Exhibit A.
[3].Exhibit B, page 3.