by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:
A man who was awarded an $8.5-million verdict against Virginia Mason for a surgery he said “obliterated” part of his penis is filing a second lawsuit.
Matthew and Sarah Hipps claim on the day their verdict came down, unauthorized employees accessed his medical records. This comes as some Virginia Mason employees in Yakima are believed to be “snooping” into medical records.
- Matthew and Sarah Hipps filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging medical battery at the hands of a Virginia Mason surgeons.
- Matthew was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and needed a stent put in his ureter. Several weeks later, the Hipps say they went to another doctor outside of Virginia Mason, and it was determined that Matthew's urethra had been obliterated during the stent procedure.
- After months of reconstructing his penis, a jury awarded $8.5 million to the couple in April.
- Now, the couple is filing a second lawsuit, claiming that unauthorized employees accessed patient’s medical records on the same day their $8.5 million verdict was announced.
- Virginia Mason recently experienced a similar privacy breach at one of its hospitals in Yakima; at least 419 patients were affected and stated that the hospital believed the problem in Yakima to be “a case of snooping, or individuals who were bored,” according to the couple’s lawyer.
Read about the first and second lawsuit in the sections below.
About the first lawsuit on the botched surgery
KIRO 7 News reported on the first lawsuit in 2014. According to the lawsuit, Matthew was scheduled to get his tumor removed Feb. 11, 2013.
Before doctors could remove his tumor, they determined Matthew needed a stent put in his right ureter, which is between the bladder and the kidney. A urologist needed to perform that part of the procedure, going through the penis to get to the ureter. The lawsuit claims that Sarah had chosen Dr. Kathleen Kobashi to perform the procedure. Kobashi is the head of the Urology Department at Virginia Mason.
The lawsuit alleges that on the morning of the surgery, Virginia Mason staff told Sarah and Matthew that Kobashi was running late but was on her way. In the meantime, her fellow (a surgeon training under her), Dr. Chong Choe, would explain the procedure to them and go over the consent form.
Sarah and Matthew claim they were very explicit with Choe that he only had permission to go over the consent form with them, and that he was not to perform the stent procedure himself. The Hipps claim they were very conscious of the consent form, in part because Choe had improperly written down that it was a bilateral ureteral procedure, when it was just for Matthew's right side. They had him correct that on the consent form.
After the surgery, the lawsuit claims Matthew was in severe pain. The Hipps said Virginia Mason did not address the problems before Matthew was discharged.
Several weeks later, the Hipps said they went to another doctor outside of Virginia Mason, and it was determined that Matthew's urethra had been obliterated during the stent procedure.
Sarah claims when she went back to Virginia Mason to try to find out what happened, she found out Choe performed the procedure. The lawsuit says the surgeon the Hipps had chosen to do the procedure, Kobashi, had never shown up in the operating room.
Matthew had to have surgical repair of his penis, involving a multi-stage process that took several months. The lawsuit claims that despite this surgical repair, Matthew was left with "pain, disability, and disfigurement."
About the new, second lawsuit
The couple’s lawyer sent a news release to KIRO 7 on Wednesday, announcing a lawsuit over a privacy breach.
Virginia Mason sent Matthew and Sarah formal letters on May 1, 2017 notifying them that their medical and financial records were viewed by an unknown number of authorized employees.
According to the complaint, the hospital disclosed that “certain employees…accessed information from the electronic medical record and the patient financial system database. The information the employees accessed include your name, address, phone number, email, billing information and clinical information.”
When the couple reached out to the hospital for additional information, their request was denied, according to their attorney.
The attorneys said Virginia Mason disclosed the breach took place on April 5, which is the day the jury announced its verdict in Hipps’ botched surgery case.
The attorneys cited a Seattle Times article that reported a privacy break at a Yakima Virginia Mason hospital affected 419 patients.
There was “no evidence that the information’s being used in an improper way,” the hospital’s chief compliance and privacy officer told The Times. “We believe this to be a case of snooping, or individuals who were bored.”
Hipps wrote in the statement about the lawsuit that he just wants his privacy issue with the hospital resolved.
The Hipps’ second lawsuit seeks damages for negligence; violation of Washington statutory law; violation of federal law, including HIPAA; and invasion of privacy.
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