Aetna is facing its second prospective class action for alleging breaching the privacy of HIV patients.
The health insurance giant, which appeared in federal court in Pennsylvania in August, was sued again Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hartford by three individuals representing the class. The lawsuit alleges the insurance giant mailed letters referring to HIV medications this past summer to 12,000 people in 20 states. The lawsuit contends the names of the recipients were clearly visible through large, transparent envelope windows.
The latest class action was brought on behalf of two Florida residents and one Illinois resident. It was filed in Connecticut because Aetna’s national headquarters is based in Hartford.
Aetna was named as a defendant in two separate lawsuits in 2014 and 2015 stating the practice of requiring customers to receive HIV medications through the mail risked violating their privacy by disclosing their use of HIV medications to third parties. Aetna settled those lawsuits for $24,000 per plaintiff earlier this year. As part of the settlement agreement, Aetna was required to notify customers who had submitted claims for HIV medications of their various options for obtaining those medications. Ironically, the lawsuit contends, Aetna once again mailed notices that allowed third parties to see who was getting information on HIV medication.
The lawsuit states that at the end of July “Aetna recklessly and unlawfully revealed confidential HIV-related information” of 12,000 people. The suit contends the plaintiffs were caused significant harm and have suffered stress and anxiety and that the HIV disclosure increased the “risk of stigma and ostracism in their personal and professional lives.”
The latest suit contains comments from several officials from non-profits that work with individuals with HIV and AIDS.
They include Rhonda Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, who said Aetna’s alleged breach “creates a tangible risk of violence, discrimination and other trauma.”
The lawsuit alleges six counts: negligence and negligence per se; breach of contract; unjust enrichment; invasion of privacy; violation of Illinois’ AIDS Confidentiality Act; and violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act,
The lawsuit seeks to proceed as a class action, ordering injunctive relief including the implementation of procedures to protect HIV-related information moving forward; plus statutory and or punitive damages.
The three attorneys representing “Jane Doe” plaintiffs in the class actions did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. They are Brian Murray, a partner with Glancy Prongay & Murray in New York City, Paul Whalen, a solo practitioner in Manhasset, New York and Attorney Jasper Ward, who is with Jones Ward in Louisville.
No one from Aetna’s media relations department responded to requests for an interview.
The case will be heard in front of U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea in Hartford.