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Friday, September 16, 2011

Info dump yields $40K settlement

By Bryan Cohen
Legal Newsline

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that a Charlotte doctor has paid $40,000 for allegedly dumping files that contained patients' financial and medical information. 

Dr. Ervin Batchelor owns and operates the Carolina Center for Development and Rehabilitation, which is a psychological testing and treatment facility located in Charlotte. In June 2010, the facility allegedly disposed of 1,000 patient files illegally by dumping them at the West Mecklenburg Recycling Center.

The files allegedly contained health information, insurance account numbers, drivers' license numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and names for 1,600 people.

"Any business you entrust with your information has a duty to keep it safe," Cooper said. "Sensitive financial and health information should never be carelessly dumped, putting customers and patients at risk of identity theft."

Under a state law Cooper pushed through the General Assembly in 2005, businesses that dispose of records containing personal identifying information must destroy or shred those records so that identity thieves can't retrieve information from discarded files that have been carelessly thrown away. Medical records also face added restrictions under federal health privacy laws.

The Carolina Center records were recovered by Mecklenburg County, N.C., officials, who contacted Cooper's office.

As part of a settlement, Batchelor paid $40,000 and agreed to abide by both federal and state laws that protect people's personal financial and health information.

The Carolina Center has already notified the patients whose information was placed at risk. State law requires businesses, as well as state and local government agencies, to notify consumers if a security breach may have put their personal information at risk. The breaches of security must also be reported to the Consumer Protection Division. Since state laws on security breaches took effect in 2005 and 2006, a total of 889 breaches involving information and more than 3.3 million state consumers have been reported.

Cooper's CPD has won settlements in multiple other document dumping cases, including against a Gastonia, N.C., movie rental store, two mortgage lenders from the Charlotte area and a Greensboro, N.C., urgent care clinic.
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