When ESPN’s Adam Schefter posted the medical records of New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, it was a controversial and hotly debated reporting decision. Schefter posted in a tweet on July 8th 2015 a picture of Pierre-Paul’s records that showed he had a finger amputated in the wake of a fireworks accident.
ESPN obtained medical charts that show Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today. pic.twitter.com/VI5cbS1uCw
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 8, 2015
The consequences of that tweet have already been felt in the medical profession as two people have been fired for illegally accessing and leaking the file.
And although Schefter and ESPN were confident in their stance that they were protected from HIPAA laws, Pierre-Paul clearly believes he has a case against the network for invading his privacy?
Because he’s suing both ESPN and Adam Schefter in a Florida court for just that. Via the New York Post:
Schefter “improperly obtained” Pierre-Paul’s medical chart showing the defensive end had his right index finger amputated and posting the record on Twitter to nearly 4 million followers, the suit says.
“This action arises out of ESPN reporter Schefter’s blatant disregard for the private and confidential nature of plaintiff’s medical records, all so Schefter could show the world that he had ‘supporting proof’ of a surgical procedure,” the suit says.
Schefter later admitted he “could have and should have done even more to protect [Pierre-Paul’s] medical records,” in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
The reporter said he tweeted the image of the medical record to bolster a story about the surgery.
Had Schefter merely reported the facts about JPP’s injury and procedure, it’s highly unlikely we’d be in this predicament today. However, because Schefter acquired the medical document and shared it publicly, two people have now lost their jobs and a lawsuit has been filed. That was an extraordinary moment in football reporting that goes well beyond anything else we’ve seen in sports media.
Sports fans have an insatiable thirst for everything revolving around the NFL, which has buoyed the 24/7/365 information cycle and brought reporters like Schefter, Mortensen, King, and others millions of social media followers. The Pierre-Paul case and this suit involving his personal medical records may tell us where that line is for what information fans really need to know and what reporters can and should share.