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Lee-Thomas v. Lab corp

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 15, 2018

HOPE LEE-THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
LAB CORP, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NO: 3

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Granting Defendant LabCorp's Motion to Dismiss

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Hope Lee-Thomas brings suit against Defendant Laboratory Corporation of America (“LabCorp”) for failing to protect her privacy and confidentiality in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). LabCorp moved to dismiss on the ground that Ms. Lee-Thomas's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because HIPAA does not provide individuals with a private cause of action. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants LabCorp's motion and dismisses Ms. Lee-Thomas's case.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         Hope Lee-Thomas was a patient at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. on June 15, 2017, where she received treatment from Defendant, LabCorp. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1-1.[2] Ms. Lee-Thomas was instructed by a LabCorp technician to submit her medical information using a computer intake station on the premises. Pl.'s Att'y Letter (“Letter”) at 1. LabCorp's computer intake station was in close proximity to a Quest Diagnostics intake station, and Ms. Lee-Thomas's personal health information was visible to another patient who was using the Quest Diagnostics station. Compl. at 3. When Ms. Lee-Thomas realized her health information was being disclosed within eyesight and earshot of another patient, she informed a LabCorp technician of the violation and photographed the two stations in question. Id.

         On July 3, 2017, Ms. Lee-Thomas sent a letter to Providence Hospital informing them of possible HIPAA privacy violations. See Letter. She then filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services's (“HHS”) Office of Civil Rights. HHS Compl. at 2. On October 10, 2017, Ms. Lee-Thomas filed an additional complaint with the District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights (“OHR”) citing LabCorp's failure to make proper “public accommodations” by maintaining non-HIPAA compliant facilities. Compl. at 2-3.

         Both of Ms. Lee-Thomas's administrative complaints were unsuccessful. See HHS Resp.; OHR Resp. On November 15, 2017, HHS informed Ms. Lee-Thomas the agency would not pursue her claim. HHS Resp. at 1-3. On November 28, 2017, the District of Columbia alerted Ms. Lee-Thomas that her complaint was similarly dismissed based on her failure to state a claim. OHR Resp. at 1-2. The District of Columbia informed Ms. Lee-Thomas of her right to bring a private action before the D.C. Superior Court and Ms. Lee-Thomas proceeded to do so. Id. at 2. LabCorp removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. Def.'s Notice of Removal (“Notice”), ECF No. 1.

         Before the Court is LabCorp's motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the ground that Ms. Lee-Thomas failed to state a claim because HIPAA does not provide for a private cause of action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 3. For the forthcoming reasons, the Court grants LabCorp's motion to dismiss.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain a “short and plain statement of the claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's likelihood of success on the merits, but rather whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). A court considering a motion to dismiss presumes the complaint's factual allegations are true and must construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2000).

         “[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Assuming all factual allegations are true, a plaintiff's right to relief must rise above “the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (2007) (citations omitted).

         Because she has filed this lawsuit pro se, Ms. Lee-Thomas's claim is held to a “less stringent standard than formal pleadings.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). That being said, pro se plaintiffs must still comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, see Jarrell v. Tisch, 656 F.Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C. 1987), and the Court need not assume the role of plaintiff's advocate. See Davis v. Kelly, 160 F.3d 917, 922 (2d Cir. 1998); Sun v. D.C. Gov't, 133 F.Supp.3d 155, 168 n.6 (D.D.C. 2015) (“[I]t is not the Court's job to canvass the record for documents supporting a pro se party's position.”).

         IV. ...


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