Court: Lawsuit over viewing of anchor’s medical file can proceed
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LITTLE ROCK — The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the mother of slain Little Rock TV anchor Anne Pressly can proceed with a lawsuit over the illegal viewing of her daughter’s medical records, but the court dismissed a violation-of-privacy claim from the suit.
The high court partially reversed and partially affirmed a Pulaski County circuit judge’s ruling that dismissed Patricia Cannady’s suit, which alleged violation of privacy and outrage.
Pressly, an anchor for KATV-TV, was beaten and raped at her home in October 2008. She died of her injuries five days later at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center. Curtis Vance was convicted of capital murder, rape and burglary in the attack and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
In 2009, family physician Dr. Jay Holland, former emergency room coordinator Candida Griffin and Sarah Miller, a former account representative at St. Vincent Medical Center in Sherwood, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of illegally accessing medical records. The three, who did not treat Pressly, were named as defendants in Cannady’s suit along with St. Vincent.
In oral arguments before the Supreme Court last month, Beverly Rowlett, a lawyer for the hospital, argued that the circuit judge was right to dismiss the suit because a claim of violation of privacy cannot proceed after the death of the person whose privacy was violated.
Rowlett also argued that the outrage claim could not proceed because it was based on the same conduct as the privacy claim.
In its opinion Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed that the violation-of-privacy claim could not survive Pressly’s death. It reversed the circuit judge’s dismissal of the outrage claim, however.
“The outrage claim was not made on behalf of the decedent, but on appellant’s own behalf, and the court failed to make any findings regarding whether sufficient facts existed to state a cause of action for outrage. Thus, we reverse the court’s order on this point and remand for further proceedings,” Justice Jim Gunter wrote in the opinion.
The high court also said no authority was cited by St. Vincent or the circuit judge for the proposition that two separate claims cannot be based on the same conduct.
Justice Paul Danielson said in a separate opinion that he agreed with the court’s decision but wanted to make it clear that there was “no reason that Cannady could not assert that she was outraged by the conduct of the appellees.”