This case involves a very unfortunate set of circumstances. A New York couple adopted what they thought was a healthy baby boy from Indiana who, unbeknownst to them prior to the adoption, has profound neurological deficits which cause significant and permanent learning and physical abnormalities. A prenatal sonogram performed by the birth mother’s doctor revealed significant brain abnormalities in the unborn baby. Prior to finalizing the adoption, the adoptive parents sought the prenatal records of the birth mother from her doctor as well as postnatal records of the birth mother and the baby from the hospital. Although they received the postnatal records from the hospital, which revealed no problems, the adoptive parents did not receive any prenatal records, including the sonogram report, because the birth mother’s doctor did not send them those records. Nevertheless, the adoption was finalized. The adoptive parents subsequently learned of the baby’s neurological deficits and resulting learning and physical abnormalities.
The adoptive parents filed a complaint for negligence against the birth mother’s doctor alleging that the doctor was negligent in failing to provide them the prenatal records when they requested them. The doctor filed a motion for summary judgment contending that he had no legal duty to release the prenatal records to the adoptive parents because the medical records authorization submitted to him did not comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). The adoptive parents responded with a motion for partial summary judgment contending, as a matter of law, that the doctor owed them a duty to provide them with the prenatal records at the time they requested them. The trial court agreed with the doctor and entered summary judgment in his favor. On appeal, the adoptive parents argue that the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the doctor on the issue of duty and in failing to enter partial summary judgment in their favor on the same issue. Concluding as a matter of law that the doctor owed no duty to the adoptive parents, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
… The fact remains that Dr. Okolocha only has a duty to release medical records when properly authorized by a patient to do so. There was no such authorization here, and therefore no duty. The Jeffreys claim for negligence must fail.
We are mindful of the great emotional and monetary harm suffered by the Jeffreys in this case. However, it cannot be ignored that the Jeffreys and their attorneys were in the best position to avoid the harm suffered. The Jeffreys and their attorneys finalized the adoption of E.J. despite the fact that they had not received V.S.’s prenatal records from Dr. Okolocha. Unfortunately, there were tragic consequences to that gamble. Nevertheless, we cannot find a duty in negligence when none exists. Summary judgment in favor of Dr. Okolocha is appropriate. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
VAIDIK, J., and BRADFORD, J., concur.