Tatta v. State, 799 N.Y.S.2d 610 (N.Y. App. Div. 2005)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

An HIV-positive inmate sued prison officials for the negligent disclosure of his HIV status. Finding that the disclosure violated New York Public Health Law § 2782, the court found that the inmate was entitled to statutory damages, even though the disclosure was inadvertent and was not motivated by malice. This decision demonstrates that even where a violation of an HIV confidentiality law is unintentional, the person or entity responsible for the disclosure will still be held liable. However, a compensatory damages award will depend on the inmate’s ability to present expert testimony as to the consequences of the disclosure. Despite holding the prison liable, the court found that the inmate was not entitled to compensatory damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress because the inmate, by relying exclusively on his own testimony regarding the negative health impact caused by the unauthorized disclosure, failed to demonstrate that the disclosure unreasonably endangered his physical safety. Needless to say, securing this type of testimony is extremely difficult for inmates, and virtually impossible for inmates without the assistance of outside advocates.