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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Hospital seeks dismissal of patient’s lawsuit over ransomware attack

The parent company of UF Health-The Villages Hospital is seeking the dismissal of a patient’s lawsuit resulting from a ransomware attack that may have compromised her personal information.

Chrystal Holmes, identified as a Lake County resident, is suing The Villages Tri-County Medical Center, UF Health Central Florida and Leesburg Regional Medical Center Inc. in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida.

The hospital in Leesburg and UF Health-The Villages Hospital were both paralyzed as a result of the ransomware attack launched this past May.

UF Health played down the ransomware attack but on July 30 notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that 700,981 people were affected by the ransomware attack, according to the lawsuit, which is seeking damages in excess of $5 million.

This past week, UF Health filed for a dismissal of Holmes’ lawsuit.

“Plaintiff did not file the lawsuit because, as a result of the Ransomware Attack, someone obtained and fraudulently used or even attempted to use her personal information. Nor did she file the lawsuit because the Ransomware Attack caused her to incur any out-of-pocket costs. She filed the lawsuit because she was notified of the Ransomware Attack; nothing more,” according to the motion to dismiss. “Under Florida law, notification of a Ransomware Attack does not allow an individual, like Plaintiff here, to file a lawsuit. More is required. For each of her claims—negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty—Plaintiff must allege that she suffered a cognizable injury caused by the Ransomware Attack. She has not. For that reason alone, her claims must be dismissed.”

Holmes alleges that UF Health failed “to implement industry protocols and exercise reasonable care in protecting and safeguarding” patient information. She quotes the FBI in its warning that “prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware and it is critical to take precautions for protection.”

Like many other UF Health patients, Holmes received a letter in late July notifying her of the data breach.

She worries that her information will be used for “targeted marketing information” or sold on the dark web. She said she and fellow patients “now face years of constant surveillance of their financial and personal records.”

Holmes is represented by John Yanchunis and Ryan Maxey of Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group in Tampa.

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