Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Tech’

Higher education roundup

January 5 roundup

  • Other motorist in fatal crash should have been detained after earlier traffic stop, says widow in suit against Kane County, Ill. sheriff’s office [Chicago Tribune]
  • Now with flashing graphic: recap of Demi Moore skinny-thigh Photoshop nastygram flap [Xeni Jardin, BoingBoing, Kennerly]
  • Blawg Review #245 is hosted by Charon QC;
  • Expensive, unproven, and soon on your insurance bill? State lawmakers mull mandate for autism therapy coverage [, Springfield, Missouri]
  • “NBC airs segment on Ford settlement: Lawyers get $25 million, plaintiffs get a coupon” [NJLRA]
  • “Drawing on emotion”: high-profile patent plaintiff’s lawyer Niro writes book on how to win trials [Legal Blog Watch]
  • “Virginia Tech faces lawsuit over student’s suicide” [AP/WaPo]
  • Maryland lawmaker’s Howard-Dean-style candor: “you take care of your base… It’s labor and trial lawyers that get Democrats in office” [Wood, ShopFloor]


The feds have issued guidance on the interplay of two complicated laws enacted by Congress in the name of privacy, FERPA (college students) and HIPAA (medical information). The intersection between the two was the subject of considerable attention at the time of the Virginia Tech massacre, carried out by a mentally disturbed student whose deteriorating condition had been kept a secret from many interested parties because of the laws. [HIPAA Blog]

April 11 roundup

  • Plenty of reaction to our Tuesday post questioning the NYT school-bullying story, including reader comments and discussion at other blogs; one lawprof passes along a response by the Wolfe family to the Northwest Arkansas Times’s reporting [updated post]
  • Geoffrey Fieger, of jury-swaying fame, says holding his forthcoming criminal trial in Detroit would be unfair because juries there hate his guts [Detroit News]
  • Another Borat suit down as Judge Preska says movie may be vulgar but has social value, and thus falls into “newsworthiness” exception to NY law barring commercial use of persons’ images [ABA Journal]
  • Employer found mostly responsible for accident that occurred after its functionaries overrode a safety device, but a heavy-equipment dealer also named as defendant will have to pay more than 90 percent of resulting $14.6 million award [Bloomington, Ill. Pantagraph]
  • New Mexico Human Rights Commission fines photographer $6600 for refusing a job photographing same-sex commitment ceremony [Volokh, Bader]
  • “Virginia reaches settlement with families of VA Tech shooting victims” [Jurist]
  • Roger Parloff on downfall of Dickie Scruggs [Fortune]
  • Judge in Spain fined heavily and disbarred for letting innocent man spend more than a year in jail [AP/IHT, Guardian]
  • Hard to know whether all those emergency airplane groundings actually improved safety, they might even have impaired it [Murray/NRO “Corner”, WSJ edit]
  • “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value” — tracking down the context of that now-celebrated quote from a Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator [Volokh]
  • Who was it that said that lawyers “need to be held accountable for frivolous lawsuits that help drive up the cost of malpractice insurance”? Hint: initials are J.E. [three years ago on Overlawyered]

High cost of health privacy laws, cont’d

More HIPAA madness? On Wednesday, in a crime that cast a chill through the mental health community, a Manhattan therapist was brutally slaughtered in her office by a man whose actions seemed consistent with those of a current or former patient with a grudge. The assailant escaped on foot, and although his image had been captured on surveillance tape, police were nowhere near beginning to know where to start looking for him: “Because of privacy laws, police hadn’t been able to access patient records as of late yesterday, sources said.” (New York Post, Feb. 14)(via Bader). On medical privacy laws and the Virginia Tech rampage of Seung Hui Cho, see Jun. 16, 2007.

More: Commenter Supremacy Claus says not to blame HIPAA, which has an exemption for police reports.

Friday morning sequel: This morning’s New York Post sticks with the original story and fleshes out the HIPAA role somewhat:

The hunt for the savage beast who butchered an Upper East Side therapist has hit a roadblock – because detectives can’t access her patients’ medical records under federal privacy laws, The Post has learned.

Police believe the meat-cleaver-wielding psycho who killed Kathryn Faughey on Tuesday night inside her office on East 79th Street could be the doctor’s patient – and need access to her records to identify him.

But police sources said because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, investigators are having a hard time gaining access to those records.

“A case like this gets complicated because of medical privacy protections,” a source close to the investigation told The Post yesterday.

The federal law states that doctors, hospitals and health-insurance companies must protect the privacy of patients – even in a murder investigation – and that only through the use of subpoenas can authorities hope to obtain such information.

Police sources said investigators have applied for a subpoena, but have yet to receive it. Even if the subpoena is issued, patients can sue to keep their records private. …

[D]etectives have tried to get around the law by tracking down patients through sign-in sheets at the building’s front desk and through surveillance cameras in the lobby, sources said.

(Murray Weiss, Jamie Schram and Clemente Lisi, “Vexed by ‘Slay File’ Madness”, New York Post, Feb. 15). My Times (U.K.) article on the problems posed by health privacy laws is here.

November 20 roundup

  • Dickie Scruggs will host Dec. 15 Hillary fundraiser headlined by Bill [Clarion-Ledger via WSJ law blog]
  • Megabucks campaigns for state judicial office: Symptom? Illness? Both? [Justice O’Connor @, Adler @ Volokh; Pero]
  • U.K. kids’ author says publisher’s safety worries vetoed depiction of fire-breathing dragon in book [Daily Mail]
  • Roger Parloff describes the Judith Regan complaint as bizarre, and angry commenters are soon denouncing him as a Fox’s-paw [Fortune Legal Pad; Althouse; ritual disclaimer]
  • Wonder why booking a dance venue can get pricey? Here’s one reason [WV Record]
  • “Why should I take a dollar out of [my neighbor’s] pocket?”: a Virginia Tech family wrestles with the temptation to sue [Mundy, WashPostMag]
  • Essential silliness of the “media diversity” scare [Welch, LAT]
  • Boston’s James Sokolove, known for his heavy rotation of personal-injury TV ads, is now chasing for … patent plaintiffs? [WSJ law blog; earlier]
  • Great big gobs of mutilated monkey meat could bring five years in slammer for NYC immigrant [IHT]
  • Recounting the tale of Miami’s one-time high-living “King of Torts” Louis Robles, who stole from around 4,500 clients [AJP “CEO Alert” series, PDF]

  • Campaign regulation laws spell incumbent protection in New Zealand too [Bainbridge]
  • Influence of newspaper lobby retards natural migration to the web of fine-print legal notices [Liptak, NYT]

Yet more on privacy/disability laws and Seung Hui Cho

Perils of privacy laws, as discussed earlier here, here, here and here:

Fairfax County school officials determined that Seung Hui Cho suffered from an anxiety disorder so severe that they put him in special education and devised a plan to help, according to sources familiar with his history, but Virginia Tech was never told of the problem.

The disorder made Cho unable to speak in social settings and was deemed an emotional disability, the sources said. When he stopped getting the help that Fairfax was providing, Cho became even more isolated and suffered severe ridicule during his four years at Virginia Tech, experts suggested. In his senior year, Cho killed 32 students and faculty members and himself in the deadliest shooting by an individual in U.S. history….

Professors and school administrators at Virginia Tech could not have known of Cho’s emotional disability — Fairfax officials were forbidden from telling them. Federal privacy and disability laws prohibit high schools from sharing with colleges private information such as a student’s special education coding or disability, according to high school and college guidance and admissions officials. Those laws also prohibit colleges from asking for such information.

The only way Virginia Tech officials would have known about Cho’s anxiety and selective mutism would have been if Cho or his parents told them about it and asked for accommodations to help him, as he had received in Fairfax….

Although the only way college officials could have known about Cho’s problem would have been from Cho, experts said that asking for help is an almost impossible task for someone with selective mutism.

(Brigid Schulte and Tim Craig, “Unknown to Va. Tech, Cho Had a Disorder”, Washington Post, Aug. 27). More: Hans Bader at CEI’s Open Market (Aug. 27).

July 23 roundup

Privacy laws and Seung Hui Cho, cont’d

Better late than never:

Virginia Tech has provided some of Seung Hui Cho’s medical records to a panel investigating the April 16 massacre, after negotiating with family members to waive their privacy rights….

The records were released after weeks of frustration among the eight panel members over not being able to analyze Cho’s mental health in the years leading to the massacre, the worst mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history….

…panel officials said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional records, which also are protected under state and federal privacy laws.

(Tim Craig, “Panel Given Some Medical Files on Cho”, Washington Post, Jun. 15). And from a Thursday news report, also in the Post:

Authorities’ abilities to identify potentially dangerous mentally ill people are crippled across the nation by the same kinds of conflicts in privacy laws that prevented state officials from being able to intervene before Seung Hui Cho went on his rampage at Virginia Tech, according to a federal report commissioned after the Blacksburg shootings that was presented to President Bush yesterday.

Because school administrators, doctors and police officials rarely share information about students and others who have mental illnesses, troubled people don’t get the counseling they need, and authorities are often unable to prevent them from buying handguns, the report says.

(Chris L. Jenkins, “Confusion Over Laws Impedes Aid For Mentally Ill”, Washington Post, Jun. 14). My writings on the topic from April are here, here and here.

Vienna, Va. attorney Thomas J. Fadoul, Jr., who represents twenty victim families, has threatened to sue unless a family representative is appointed to the panel investigating the massacre so as to help “steer” its proceedings; Virginia governor Tim Kaine has replied that the panel was chosen so as not to include parties involved, and noted that the panel does not include any representative of Virginia Tech itself.