Cases & Investigations

Aetna HIV Medication Privacy Breach Class Action Lawsuit

CASE STATUS: Settled
SETTLEMENT AMOUNT: $17 million

This lawsuit involved a massive privacy breach, in which insurance company Aetna violated the privacy rights of thousands of its customers by exposing their highly private and confidential information regarding prescriptions for HIV medication.

On August 28, 2017, Berger Montague along with the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Legal Action Center, based in New York City, filed a class action lawsuit against Aetna in Pennsylvania federal court. A copy of the Complaint is available here.

The lawsuit alleged that Aetna sent a notice regarding HIV medication with a large-window envelope, exposing the highly confidential information for about 12,000 Aetna customers in 24 states.  As illustrated below, information regarding the recipient’s HIV medication was clearly visible through the large transparent window of the Aetna envelope, revealing the private and personal information to family, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.

Aetna’s actions were alleged to have violated federal and state privacy laws, and Aetna was accused of exposing people living with HIV to potential discrimination. The lawsuit demanded that Aetna cease the practice, reform its mailing procedures, and pay damages, including punitive damages to class members.

On September 28, 2017, Aetna announced that it was offering emergency relief for individuals harmed by the company’s mailing. The emergency relief program offered cash reimbursements to individuals who have incurred financial hardship as a result of the breach and offered free counseling services to individuals and their family members who request it. Aetna’s announcement about the emergency program is available here.

The emergency relief program was developed by Aetna with input from attorneys at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, the Legal Action Center, and Berger Montague. The class action lawsuit still proceeded–the relief program was simply a way to address the immediate needs of those affected by the privacy breach. The program did not involve any legal releases of claims by participants.

On January 17, 2018, a $17 million settlement was reached in the class action. The settlement received final approval on October 15, 2018.

If you would like further information about the class action lawsuit or emergency relief program, please contact  Ronda B. Goldfein, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, email: goldfein@aidslawpa.org, phone: 215-587-9377.

Lead Attorneys

Shanon J. Carson

Managing Shareholder
Sarah Schalman-Bergen Headshot

Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen

Shareholder
E. Michelle Drake Headshot

E. Michelle Drake

Shareholder

Associates

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