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Ruple v. Bausch

July 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Homer U.S. Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff pro se Bryan Ruple ("Ruple"), an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that while he was incarcerated at the Otsego County Jail, three County employees, violated his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1182 ("HIPAA"), Section 18 of the New York State Public Health Law, and the New York State Freedom of Information Law. Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Presently pending is defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 17. Ruple opposes the motion. Dkt. No. 19. For the following reasons, it is recommended that defendant's motion be granted and the complaint be dismissed with prejudice.

I. Background

The facts are related herein in the light most favorable to Ruple as the non-moving party. See Ertman v. United States, 165 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir.1999). All events appear to have occurred during 2007 and 2008 when Ruple was incarcerated at Otsego County Jail, prior to his transfer to DOCS custody. Compl. ¶¶ 1-4, 6.

On December 15, 2008, defendant Bausch, a nurse, disclosed medical records to defendant Sheriff Devlin, who in turn submitted those records to the County Attorney James Konstanty, without first obtaining Ruple's permission. Compl. ¶ 6; see also Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2. The surrender of such records coincides with Ruple's filing of a previous lawsuit in the Northern District of New York.*fn2 Compl. ¶ 5. Ruple contends that the disclosures made by Bausch "did not pertain to... [the] pending case." Id. ¶ 6; see also Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3-4. During 2007 and 2008, Bausch allegedly provided unnamed correctional staff with information regarding the medications prescribed for Ruple. Compl. ¶ 6. Additionally, defendant Child released medical information from Ruple's medical file, to Ruple, which he had requested. Id. ¶ 6; see also Dkt. No. 1-1 at 5-8. This action followed.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint that states no actionable claim. When considering a motion to dismiss, "a court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant." Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994). However, this "tenet... is inapplicable to legal conclusions[; thus, t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (holding that "entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action... [as] courts are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.")).

Accordingly, to defeat a motion to dismiss, a claim must include "facial plausibility... that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (explaining that the plausibility test "does not impose a probability requirement... it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal [conduct].")); see also Arar v. Ashcroft, 585 F.3d 559, 569 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that, "[o]n a motion to dismiss, courts require enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible....") (citations omitted). Determining whether plausibility exists is "a content specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

When, as here, a party seeks summary judgment against a pro se litigant, a court must afford the non-movant special solicitude. Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 477 (2d Cir.2006); see also Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant # 1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-92 (2d Cir.2008) ("On occasions too numerous to count, we have reminded district courts that 'when [a] plaintiff proceeds pro se,... a court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally.' " (citations omitted)).


HIPAA creates a monetary remedy for the wrongful disclosure of medical information. 42 U.S.C. § 1320d-6. "However, HIPAA does not confer a private cause of action to any particular class of individuals or either explicitly or implicitly, confer to private individuals a right of enforcement." Hamilton v. Smith, No. 06-CV-805 (GTS/DRH), 2009 WL 3199531, at *20 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 13, 2009) modified 2009 WL 3199520 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Furthermore, HIPAA provides for no federal cause of action; instead, HIPAA provides for an enforcement mechanism for the Secretary of Health and Human Services [HHS]." Id. (citations omitted). Therefore, Ruple cannot sustain his HIPAA claim since there is no private cause of action granted by the statute. Ruple's only recourse through this statute is to request the State of New York or the Secretary of HHS to bring the action on his behalf.

Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss on this ground ...

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