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Strange Lawsuit Says IRS Stole Health Records

March 25, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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A mysterious class-action lawsuit filed in California claims that U.S. Internal Revenue Service agents illegally seized more than 60 million medical records covering more than 10 million Americans during a raid on a company that the lawsuit does not identify.

Also unspecified are the identities of the IRS agents—because, the lawsuit says, the IRS refuses to reveal their names. According to a March 14 Courthouse News Service story, “John Doe Company” filed the lawsuit against 15 “John Doe” IRS agents.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Robert E. Barnes of Malibu, California, declined to elaborate. He told Courthouse News, “I had to file to protect against the statue of limitations being an issue, but am still investigating all the facts.” He said he would have more information in a few months.

The lawsuit says the IRS raided the company, located “in the Southern District of California,” on March 11, 2011. It says the IRS had a search warrant authorizing the seizure of financial records related primarily to a former employee of the company. Instead of targeting only those records, the lawsuit says, the IRS agents seized a broad range of records, including the medical information. The lawsuit alleges:

No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search.

The lawsuit says, in language not often seen in legal documents, “After being put on notice of the illicit seizure, the IRS agents refused to return the records, continued to keep the records for the prying eyes of IRS peeping toms, and keep the records to this very day.”

We wish more lawyers wrote like this.

Perhaps the indignant tone of the lawsuit stems from the agents’ alleged indulgence in a little March Madness:

“Adding insult to injury, after unlawfully seizing the records and searching their intimate parts, defendants decided to use John Doe Company’s media system to watch basketball, ordering pizza and Coca-Cola, to take in part of the NCAA tournament, illustrating their complete disregard of the court’s order and the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment Rights.”

The lawsuit seeks $25,000 in compensatory damages “per violation per individual” plus punitive damages. It also asks that the IRS be prohibited from sharing the information in the medical records, that it be forced to return the records, and that the records be purged from all government databases.

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“Why don’t you come sit on my lap while we look at your MRI?” So said a Florida doctor to an undercover detective, according to a sheriff. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: UCSF Radiology Review: COMPREHENSIVE IMAGING

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