New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has filed a lawsuit against ESPN and on-air reporter Adam Schefter in Florida court, alleging that Schefter violated HIPAA privacy laws by posting his private medical records online without permission. The 27-year-old former Pro Bowl player, who is affectionately known by teammates and Giants’ fans alike as “JPP,” famously lost one of his fingers and sustained severe damage to his hand after a July 4 fireworks accident last year.
Miami-Dade County court documents filed by Pierre-Paul’s legal team Wednesday indicate that Schefter, a well-known NFL analyst, “improperly obtained” the player’s medical chart after the incident, then revealed some of the sensitive information online, according to the New York Post.
This medical data was perhaps most famously shared by one of Adam Schefter’s tweets just days after the mishap on July 8.
ESPN obtained medical charts that show Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today. pic.twitter.com/VI5cbS1uCw— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 8, 2015
“This action arises out of ESPN reporter Schefter’s blatant disregard for the private and confidential nature of plaintiff’s medical records,” argued Pierre-Paul’s lawyers, Mitchell Schuster and Kevin Fritz, in the Miami-Dade County case. “All so Schefter could show the world that he had ‘supporting proof’ of a surgical procedure.”
While Jason Pierre-Paul’s legal team has not publicly stated their their desired compensation, a recent report by USA Today identified the lawsuit as being valued at an “excess of $15,000.”
Pierre-Paul’s legal team also argue that while the player’s injury may have been “a matter of legitimate public concern,” the entire medical “chart was not.” In fact, USA Today noted, Florida statute 456.057 says that a patient’s medical records cannot be shared or discussed with anyone not involved with the care.
In addition, two employees at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Pierre-Paul was treated last July, also lost their jobs over the matter.
For his part, Schefter noted in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated that he never sought out obtaining the medical chart and that news organizations are not governed by HIPAA medical disclosure laws. Still, he said that he “could and should have done even more here due to the sensitivity of the situation.”
Despite this regret, Schefter still insisted to SI that Tweeting the medical record was a great addition to the developing story.
“This was a public figure and franchise player involved in a widely speculated accident with potential criminal behavior in which there was a cone of secrecy that surrounded him for five days that not even his own team could crack,” said Schefter for the piece.
“This wasn’t as if some player were admitted to the hospital with a secret illness or disease—we’ve seen those cases over the years, as recently as this past year even. This one was different and unique for a variety of reasons. The extent of his injuries were going to come to light, maybe that day or later that week, but soon. They’re horrific injuries, incredibly unfortunate for the player. But in a day and age in which pictures and videos tell stories and confirm facts, in which sources and their motives are routinely questioned, and in which reporters strive to be as accurate as possible, this was the ultimate supporting proof.”
Still, Schefter noted, “Sometimes in the fast-paced news world we live in, it’s easy to forget you should lean on the knowledge and experience of the people surrounding you. They’re always there for everything, but especially stories like this. On this one, there should have been even more discussion than there was due to the sensitivity of the story; that’s on me.”
Schefter, 49, is a regular reporter for ESPN and its various programs.
Pierre-Paul, who is now set to become an unrestricted free agent, was a key piece of the New York Giants’ SuperBowl run in 2011. Despite accruing 42 sacks during five healthy seasons (2010-2014), he struggled to return from his hand injury and played in just eight games with a heavily bandaged hand and recorded just one sack. Pierre-Paul did undergo offseason surgery, USA Today noted, to try to improve his flexibility.
For its part, ESPN has yet to commented on the matter. Further details regarding this case are as of now still largely unknown.
[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]