A Fresno County judge has dismissed a Sanger woman’s lawsuit that accused HealthComp Inc. of giving confidential information about her needing a costly liver transplant to Harris Ranch Beef Co. that led to her being fired.
In 2015, Debora Rose accused HealthComp of invasion of privacy and unfair business practices.
But in his 14-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Mark Snauffer ruled that federal law exempts HealthComp from being sued.
Rose’s attorney, Amanda Whitten of Fresno, said Friday that she plans to appeal, saying Snauffer didn’t offer a legal remedy for what happened to Rose.
Rose died in July at the age of 60 after she became too weak to get the liver transplant, Whitten said. Since then, Rose’s daughter Chaille Weaver took over the legal fight.
In her lawsuit, Rose contended that when her liver started to fail, she thought her employer, Harris Ranch, and HealthComp were trying to help her by assigning a case manager to assist her in wading through the complicated paperwork. But in December 2012, one week after HealthComp told Harris Ranch that Rose needed a $265,000 liver transplant, she was fired, Whitten said.
Court records say that in December 2012, one week after HealthComp told Harris Ranch that Debora Rose needed a $265,000 liver transplant, she was fired.
Rose sued Harris Ranch in March 2013 for wrongful termination and disability discrimination and later reached a confidential settlement in Fresno County Superior Court that has no admission of liability, Whitten said.
Two years later, she sued HealthComp after she learned the company had given confidential information about her health to Harris Ranch.
The legal fight is intertwined with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA, which regulates health benefit plans provided by private employers. ERISA encourages private companies to provide health benefits for employees. In exchange, the act offers private companies many exemptions from liability in state courts.
Snauffer said as much in his ruling: Harris Ranch has a self-funded health care plan that is covered by ERISA. Therefore, Harris’ health-plan administrator, HealthComp, can’t be sued by Rose for invasion of privacy and unfair business practice.
In addition, Snauffer said, HealthComp could share Rose’s information with Harris Ranch in its role as health plan administrator.