BOSTON (AP) – This was not the report that his fingers were torn off. It was the photo from his confidential medical records sent to nearly 4 million followers on Twitter that prompted New York Giants linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul to sue ESPN and reporter Adam Schefter for invasion of privacy.
Citing state privacy laws, Pierre-Paul asked a Miami-Dade County circuit court to award him at least $ 15,000 in damages for the report that followed his 4th of July fireworks accident. The lawsuit filed Wednesday also left open the possibility of punitive damages.
The lawsuit acknowledges that an NFL star’s injury was a matter of public interest, a legal standard that limits his right to a confidentiality claim. However, she maintains that the photo in her actual medical records describing the injury to three fingers on her right hand was not.
But to win, Pierre-Paul will have to prove that he was harmed by the release of the medical file, and not just by the injury itself.
“Florida law makes it very difficult for Jason Pierre-Paul or anyone with a similar claim to prevail,” said Darren Heitner, owner of Miami-area Heitner Legal law firm, which teaches law enforcement. sports at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. “We are dealing with a public figure. It’s not as if Adam Schefter found a random person who was injured using fireworks on July 4th.
ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz declined to comment on behalf of the network. Schefter did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment; the lawsuit quotes an interview he gave to Sports Illustrated in which he called the graphic “ultimate proof” but conceded: “Looking back, I could have and should have done even more here because of the sensitivity of the situation. “
Peter Paul blew out parts of three fingers when one of the fireworks he was lighting to celebrate Independence Day exploded in his hand. Less specific reports of an injury circulated over the next few days before Schefter tweeted a photo of the painting on July 8 depicting the amputation of Peter Paul’s right index finger and damage to two others.
It is illegal under state and federal laws for the custodian of medical records to disclose them without the patient’s consent; The Jackson Memorial Hospital fired two staff members who it said improperly accessed Pierre-Paul’s files and said they settled the dispute with Pierre-Paul.
Florida law also prohibits a third party “from disclosing further information in the medical record without the express written consent of the patient or their legal representative.”
But when this third party is a journalist, the complainant will have to prove that the report did not concern a matter of public interest. (For punitive damages, Pierre-Paul will have to prove malicious intent.)
The lawsuit deals with this, claiming that “while the amputation may have been a legitimate public concern, the card itself was not.”
“I think it would be very difficult for a… jury to distinguish between the two and say that one is so much more glaring than the other. It’s not as if the medical record provides Pierre-Paul’s social security number or other types of private information, ”Heitner said.
“The claim that there is sort of a difference between writing ‘ESPN confirms Jason Pierre-Paul has had his right index finger amputated” and saying the same with the attached medical record – I think anyone doing the right thing meaning would reject that argument anyway. “
Pierre-Paul missed the first eight games of the season but started the other eight. He only managed one sack and struggled to complete the game with his hand wrapped to protect him.
Pierre-Paul had his hand operated after the season in the hope of improving his flexibility. He should be a free agent this offseason, but should get less attention – and a smaller contract – than before the injury.
Heitner said Peter Paul’s return to the pitch showed that any damage to his reputation – or his game – was the result of the crash, not Schefter’s report.
“If the facts were true, it is very likely that this information would have been broken soon after,” Heitner said. “So what damage to reputation is attached to this action of Adam Schefter?” “
Jimmy Golen covers sports and law for the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/jgolen