The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff stated a cause of action for breach of the physician-patient privilege (CPLR 4504(a)). Plaintiff was a resident at the State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. During her residency plaintiff was treated by defendant Witlin, a psychiatrist. In a conversation with a staff psychologist at the college, Witlin said he was “aware of [plaintiff’s] deterioration” and that she “was a mess the last time [he] saw her.” Plaintiff was subsequently denied a second year of residency:
“The elements of a cause of action for breach of physician-patient confidentiality are: (1) the existence of a physician-patient relationship; (2) the physician’s acquisition of information relating to the patient’s treatment or diagnosis; (3) the disclosure of such confidential information to a person not connected with the patient’s medical treatment, in a manner that allows the patient to be identified; (4) lack of consent for that disclosure; and (5) damages” … . …
… [P]laintiff’s claimed damages are not limited to those related to the decision not to reappoint her. The complaint, as amplified by the bill of particulars, alleges that plaintiff suffered mental distress and related emotional harm as a direct result of the disclosure of her confidential medical information. Because a breach of physician-patient confidentiality is actionable as a tort … , plaintiff may recover for emotional harm so long as “the mental injury is a direct, rather than a consequential, result of the breach and . . . the claim possesses some guarantee of genuineness” … . Bonner v Lynott, 2022 NY Slip Op 02175, Third Dept 3-31-22
Practice Point: Here plaintiff stated a cause of action for breach of the patient-physician privilege which sounds in tort and includes damages as an element.