Southeast Texas Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Appeals court tosses out complaint against Polk County over acquired mental health records

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Nov 6, 2019

Justice Hollis Horton

BEAUMONT -- The Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed Oct. 31 the dismissal of a man’s complaint against Polk County and related parties, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights.

The Polk County District Court initially had dismissed Kail Edward Gibson’s case against Robert Hill Trapp, judge of the Polk County court, and William Lee Hon, Polk County's district attorney, calling it frivolous.

The appeals court affirmed the dismissal of Gibson's allegations that the defendants infringed on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when it unlawfully acquired his mental health records without his permission or giving him notice.

“Our review of Gibson’s petition shows that he failed to cite to any relevant case law or statutes supporting his contention that the physician-patient privilege applied in his underlying criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice Steve McKeithen wrote. Justices Hollis Horton and Leanne Johnson concurred. “There is no physician-patient privilege in Texas criminal proceedings except under limited circumstances not applicable here,” McKeithen ruled

Although Gibson also alleged the defendants violated HIPAA by obtaining his mental health records under a grand jury subpoena and without his go-ahead, the judges denied this argument. They ruled the actions did not violate HIPAA as they are protected entities under HIPAA and not overseen by HIPAA..

To Gibson's charge that the lower court denied him due process when it dismissed his complaint as frivolous and failed to hold a hearing, McKeithen wrote, “Because the trial court properly determined that Gibson’s claims had no arguable basis in law, and thus failed to state a claim, we conclude that the trial court was not required to conduct a hearing.”

Considering this, the appeals judges determined the lower court did not err when it tossed out Gibson’s lawsuit, and affirmed the decision.

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