ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico Hospital failed to protect the confidential medical and mental health records of the Roswell school shooter, 13-year-old Mason Campbell, when he was a patient there earlier this year, according to a federal civil lawsuit filed on his behalf Thursday.
The lawsuit alleges that as many as eight John or Jane Does who were not involved in Campbell’s medical or mental health treatment accessed his records without authorization and in violation of federal law, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The hospital informed the family of the breach and said it had taken action, including suspension and termination, regarding the employees.
Campbell, who was then 12, was sent to an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital for evaluation after he fired a shotgun in the gymnasium of Berrendo Middle School, wounding two of his fellow students, Nathaniel Tavarez, 13, and Kendal Sanders, also 13.
The hospital was later identified as a facility that is part of the UNM Health Sciences Center and the UNM Hospital system.
Campbell pleaded “no contest” to three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and carrying a firearm into a school in May.
District Judge Freddie J. Romero remanded Campbell to the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department until age 21, but he could be released earlier if the department determines he has successfully completed all required therapies and counseling, and has been rehabilitated.
The lawsuit filed by the Campbell family’s attorneys, Robert Gorence and Jason Bowles, alleges UNMH owed Campbell and his family a “duty of reasonable care including taking reasonable precautions to ensure that Mason Campbell’s confidential and sensitive medical information and records were not inadvertently publicized, disseminated or used for a malicious or inappropriate purpose.”
The lawsuit claims Campbell and his family had a reasonable expectation that his medical records would be kept private.
According to the lawsuit, Campbell’s parents, Jim and Jennifer Campbell, received a letter in May from the chief executive officer of UNM Hospitals, Stephen McKernan, that disclosed there had been unauthorized access of Mason Campbell’s confidential and sensitive medical information and records.
“After a thorough review, we determined by February 14, 2014, that eight (8) workforce members did not have a legitimate medical or business purpose to access your son’s electronic health record … ,” McKernan wrote.
The lawsuit says McKernan wrote that the unauthorized access occurred on “January 15 to 19, 2014, and January 29, 2014” but that there was no access to any financial information.
“Although we do not believe that the accessed information has been used in any way, we wanted to confirm to you the determination that the access was not authorized,” McKernan wrote. “We have taken appropriate corrective action, up to and including suspension or termination of these workforce members.”
Gorence said he had no comment on the lawsuit.
A statement released by the University’s Health Science Center, of which UNMH is a part, said officials there have not seen the lawsuit and can’t comment on its contents. State law prohibits UNM from “either confirming or denying that an individual was or was not a patient” at any of the UNMH psychiatric facilities, the statement said.
According to court testimony in Mason Campbell’s juvenile court case, his two victims suffered serious wounds.
Tavarez spent weeks in hospitals and rehabilitation centers for treatment of wounds to his chest, heart, face and head. He was on a ventilator for a period of time. The vision in both eyes has been severely diminished.
Sanders was released from a hospital after surgeries to repair damage to her right arm and shoulder, and right breast.
Both children still have lead pellets lodged in their bodies from the shotgun blasts.
The Campbells’ lawsuit seeks compensatory damages against UNM, as well as punitive damages against the eight John and Jane Does who accessed his medical records.