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J.H. v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 31, 2014

J.H., Appellant-Plaintiff,

Page 812

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable John F. Hanley, Judge. Cause No. 49D11-1103-CT-8520.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL A. WILKINS, Broyles Kight & Ricafort, PC., Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: STACY L. HANEFELD, KATHRYN ELIAS CORDELL, Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana.

NAJAM, Judge. BAILEY, J., and PYLE, J., concur.


Page 813

NAJAM, Judge


J.H. appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc. (" St. Vincent" ) on J.H.'s complaint alleging invasion of privacy, breach of statutory duty, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. J.H. presents five issues for our review, which we consolidate and restate as whether there are genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment with respect to each of J.H.'s claims.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.


On August 23, 2010, J.H. presented to the St. Vincent Stress Center (" the Stress Center" ) in Indianapolis for treatment of depression. J.H. reported that he was contemplating suicide. Daniel Jackson, a Stress Center employee, conducted an initial assessment of J.H. and determined that he qualified for admission to the Stress Center. Jackson asked J.H. to fill out various forms prior to his admission, including an Authorization to Disclose Health Information (" the Authorization" ). J.H., who had intentionally not communicated with members of his family about his mental illness, stated that he did not want the Stress Center to disclose his health information to anyone. But Jackson asked J.H. to name an emergency contact on the Authorization. Jackson assured J.H. that the Stress Center would contact the named emergency contact only if a true emergency existed, such as if J.H. were to suffer a heart attack. J.H. reluctantly agreed to name his grandmother, E.H., as his emergency contact.

Upon J.H.'s admission to the Stress Center, a staff member found a live bullet in J.H.'s pocket and confiscated it. J.H. then stated that he " had a gun in [his] pocket," [1] but he refused to " answer anymore" questions about a gun because " someone would come kicking in the door." Appellant's App. at 86.

After J.H.'s admission to the Stress Center, Leigh Epperson, a Stress Center employee, called E.H. and left a voice mail on her answering machine. In the message, Epperson stated that she was calling from the St. Vincent Stress Center and that she wanted to inform E.H. that J.H. was " hospitalized and he is safe." [2] Id. at 398.

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When E.H. heard the voice mail that evening, she called the Stress Center and asked for Epperson, but Epperson had left for the day. E.H. then called her son and other family members to see if anyone had any information about J.H., but no one did. E.H. then called the Stress Center again and spoke to an employee, who told E.H. that J.H. had been admitted to the Stress Center and that he was safe. E.H. was told that she could not speak to J.H., but the employee agreed to let J.H. know that E.H. had called for him.

When J.H. learned that E.H. had contacted the Stress Center, he was very upset. J.H. is very close with E.H., and he especially did not want her to know about his mental illness. J.H. was so angry about the Stress Center having contacted E.H. that he filled out the forms necessary for his discharge, but he decided to stay for further treatment. A few days later, after his discharge from inpatient treatment at the Stress Center, J.H. continued outpatient treatment there.

On September 7, while undergoing outpatient treatment at the Stress Center, J.H. sought emergency medical treatment at St. Vincent Hospital's emergency room. J.H. reported that he was " feeling suicidal [and] out of control." Id. at 458. In an initial assessment, J.H. told emergency room staff that he was at the Stress Center two weeks prior " and [his] family learned about [his] admission and now [he] feels shame [and] anger[.]" Id. J.H. was transported to the Stress Center and admitted there, but he was discharged the same day.

On March 11, 2011, J.H. filed a complaint alleging that St. Vincent violated J.H.'s right of privacy by disclosing his confidential medical information to E.H. without his authorization; breached its statutory duty to maintain the confidentiality of all of J.H.'s mental health information; was negligent in training and supervising its employees regarding the protection of his confidential medical information and was negligent in making unauthorized disclosures of his medical condition and treatment; and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him. On July 8, 2013, St. Vincent moved for summary judgment. J.H. filed a memorandum in opposition to summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted St. Vincent's summary judgment motion. This appeal ensued.


Our supreme court recently reaffirmed our standard of review in summary judgment appeals:

We review summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the trial court: " Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of . . . the non-moving parties, summary judgment is appropriate 'if the designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Williams v. Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 761 (Ind. 2009) (quoting T.R. 56(C)). " A fact is 'material' if its resolution would affect the outcome of the case, and an issue is 'genuine' if a trier of fact is required to resolve the parties' differing accounts of the truth, or if the undisputed material facts support conflicting reasonable inferences." Id. (internal citations omitted).
The initial burden is on the summary-judgment movant to " demonstrate[] the

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absence of any genuine issue of fact as to a determinative issue," at which point the burden shifts to the non-movant to " come forward with contrary evidence" showing an issue for the trier of fact. Id. at 761-62 (internal quotation marks and substitution omitted). And " [a]lthough the non-moving party has the burden on appeal of persuading us that the grant of summary judgment was erroneous, we carefully assess the trial court's decision to ensure that he was not improperly denied his day in court." McSwane v. ...

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