Globe Newspaper Co. v. Boston Retirement Board was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1983 concerning the release of medical records of state employees.
This case established that medical records of state employees are exempt from public records requests.
- On June 26, 1978, the Globe Newspaper Company's reporter, Stephen A. Kurkjian, filed a public records request for information pertaining to individuals receiving disability pensions from the city including their names, addresses, the amount of the pension, the departments giving the pension and any medical statements used by the Boston Retirement Board to grant disability pensions.
- The failure of the board to respond to the request resulted in the newspaper filing a petition, on January 12, 1979, with the Supervisor of Public Records, who ordered the records released.
- The firefighter and police unions immediately filed lawsuits to prevent the release of the medical information.
- The trial court judge delivered a split ruling which was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court delivered a split ruling, ordering everything but the medical records to be released to the newspaper.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of the unions and the retirement board.
The Supreme Court began its consideration that Section 7, Twenty-sixth (c) of the Massachusetts Public Records Act which states that "personnel and medical files or information; also any other materials or data relating to a specifically named individual, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Based on this statute and its federal counterpart, the court determined that medical records of any kind that possess personal identifying information are exempt from public records requests. Further, citing instead Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, it rejected the notion that, based on this ruling, all personal files of public employees are exempt from public records requests, which would have overturned Hastings & Sons Publishing Co. v. City Treasurer of Lynn. The court also determined that the nature of medical records creates a situation where indirect identification is fairly easy. Based on this, the court affirmed the decision of the trial court with regard to the release of the medical statements and ordered them exempt.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court