Cal-OSHA Can’t Seek AIM Healthcare Medical Records

Oct 19, 2009 9:15 AM PST
OAKLAND, Calif. — A judge last week OK'd a protective order sought by "Patient Zero" over five years’ worth of information from the AIM Healthcare Foundation that Cal-OSHA had been seeking.

Patient Zero, the adult industry performer who was found to be HIV-positive in June, asked the court to seek an injunction against Cal-OSHA and AIM because released patient-identifying information would violate Patient Zero’s right to privacy and give irreparable harm to her, according to a suit filed by ACLU attorneys.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Judge Winifred Smith, in her ruling said that "once [Patient Zero’s] identifying information is revealed, the disclosure cannot be undone,” and that Cal-OSHA can carry out its probe with a variety of other options.

Smith also said that Cal-OSHA was not acting within its jurisdiction in subpoenaing the data through the years 2004-2009.

“Cal-OSHA is charged with, among other things, investigating 'causes of any employment accident that ... results in a serious injury or illness, or a serious exposure, unless it determines that an investigation is unnecessary.' Smith said in her ruling. “Plaintiff is concededly not an employee of AIM, and Cal-OSHA is admittedly not investigating the safety of AIM's employees, but of adult film industry employers."

Smith further said that Cal-OSHA is limited to investigating employers and their agents.

“There is no apparent need for identifying information of Patient Zero, or of patient-identifying information generally, for the purposes of investigation of AIM as an employer," she said.

Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, said that Smith confirmed what the organization has long said: "Cal-OSHA is over-reaching its jurisdiction on what looks like a witch hunt focused on the adult entertainment industry."

"The facts of the case later revealed that only one adult industry performer has tested positive for HIV in more than five years," she said. "Moreover, the patient in question, Patient Zero, neither acquired HIV on set, nor infected any other person within the industry."

The suit over Patient Zero information was put on the fast track after her counsel from the ACLU learned of a meeting slated in July between Cal-OSHA officials and AIM personnel.

The court filing detailed the extent Cal-OSHA used its regulatory power to seek patient medical records at AIM, which provides HIV and STD testing and treatment mostly for adult industry performers.

Cal-OSHA, which conducted a surprise inspection of the AIM facility in Sherman Oaks, Calif., on June 17, later issued a subpoena to AIM but not to Patient Zero, who was informed by AIM on June 6 that results of an HIV test showed her preliminarily testing positive for HIV. (Patient Zero’s identity has never been revealed publicly.)

The subpoena issued by Cal-OSHA included requests for confidential public health records and “personally identifying information of AIM patents who tested positive for HIV that could reasonably be expected to identify or lead to the identification of Patient Zero.”

At the time, AIM personnel refused to produce records.

But Cal-OSHA officials scheduled a follow-up investigatory interview with AIM staff in Oakland, Calif., according to the suit.

Once Patient Zero’s attorneys got wind of the interview with AIM staff, they immediately shot off a request to Cal-OSHA objecting to it.

Patient Zero’s counsel said they never received any response from Cal-OSHA relative to the request; however a receipt of the letter showed that Cal-OSHA special counsel did receive the letter.

Patient Zero's counsel later filed its suit at Alameda Superior Court. Last week, they were successful with the injunction.

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