Baser v. VA, No. 13-12591, 2014 WL 4897290 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2014) (Hood, J.)

Date: 
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baser v. VA, No. 13-12591, 2014 WL 4897290 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2014) (Hood, J.)

Re: Request for certain datasets of information from patient files

Disposition: Denying defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 6:  The court holds that "[t]he VA's Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied" because "[p]laintiff has presented sufficient evidence to rebut the VA's position as to re-identification."  The court notes that "[p]laintiff did not request the names, addresses, or identifying numbers of the veteran-patients in his two FOIA requests, [rather] the information sought was for extensive datasets that included patient-level information such as age, gender, race, marital status, means tested income status, homeless status, prisoner of war status, geographic information (including patients, treatment facility and providers' zip code and state), and up to 64 other distinguishing data elements."  The court relates that "[p]laintiff [argues] that the VA overstated its 'mosaic' argument and that there is no meaningful risk of re-identification if the VHA properly de-identifies the data."  "Given the data requested, the cost, difficulty to a lay person in properly understanding the data, and amount of specific knowledge required about a person in order to make an attempt at re-identification, Plaintiff argues that the possibility of a re-identification is remote."
     
  • Exemption 3:  The court holds that "[f]or the same reasons above, because Plaintiff has submitted evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact that re-identification does not pose a significant risk once the data is properly de-identified, the VA's Motion for Summary Judgment on its Exemption 3 argument must also be denied."  The court relates that "[t]he VA argues two statutes protect the veterans' names and home addresses: 38 U.S.C. § 5701 (names and addresses shall be confidential and privileged) and 38 U.S.C. § 7332(a) (confidentiality of the identity and other information of any patient receiving treatment relating to drug abuse, alcoholism or alcohol abuse, HIV or sickle cell anemia)."
     
Topic: 
District Court
Exemption 3
Exemption 6
Updated January 29, 2015