Settlement reached in medical billing records case

Usually it doesn’t cost $400,000 to clean up trash that’s blown out of the dumpster and into the neighborhood bushes and trees.

But it can when that trash turns out to be personal medical billing records.

Lawyers have asked a Jackson County judge to approve a settlement between Midwest Women’s Healthcare Specialists and 1,532 of their clients. Records from those clients had been put into a dumpster during a construction project, with some blowing around the area as the wind picked up.

The incident occurred May 19 near 2316 East Meyer Boulevard.

Mitchell L. Burgess, the attorney representing the clients, said that, as of now, lawyers have no evidence that anyone used information from the records for any illegal or improper purpose. Burgess said he was pleased with the swift outcome of the case, which was filed in June.

“We felt this was a very good result,” Burgess said. “It didn’t drag on for years and we were able to get this resolved fairly promptly.”

A spokesperson for the medical practice also expressed approval for the settlement.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties,” Nikki Slater of Midwest Women’s said in a written statement. “As we said previously, we have taken steps to enhance the security of patient information.”

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, clients who file claims would receive two years of credit monitoring and Midwest Women’s pledge to provide more training to its staff on the handling and disposal of medical and billing records.

Cash payments also were included in the proposed settlement.

About 1,430 clients whose documents never left the dumpster, or were recovered immediately, will split $141,000 upon approval of their claims, Burgess said.

About 102 clients whose documents never were recovered would split $114,000 once their claims are approved.

Brittany Shorts, a North Kansas City woman who served as the lead plaintiff in the suit, would receive $2,500 should the settlement be approved.

And attorneys representing the clients would ask for fees, costs and expenses totaling $140,000, according to court paperwork.

Should the judge give preliminary approval to the settlement, lawyers will contact all members of the class represented by the lawsuit with instructions on how to file a claim, Burgess said.

And should the process work smoothly, final approval of the settlement should come by February, he said.

To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com.