July 24, 2020

Aetna Wins Revival of Case Regarding Patients’ HIV Status Leak

On July 16, the California Second Appellate District Court revived a lawsuit by Aetna seeking to hold two plaintiffs’ law firms responsible for revealing the HIV status of thousands of people through a class action mailing. Whatley Kallas LLP and Consumer Watchdog had sued Aetna on behalf of members who alleged the insurer unlawfully required them to obtain HIV medication by mail, which could compromise their medical privacy. However, a 2017 mailing that was intended to notify members of the class action settlement backfired when the settlement administrator used the wrong kind of envelopes, making it possible for Aetna members’ personal health information to be visible through the envelope’s window. The resulting data breach led Aetna to settle the case for $17 million in 2018. Aetna is now seeking indemnity and contribution for liability arising from the mailing based on alleged professional negligence by the two firms.