Beckett v. Aetna, Inc. is a class action lawsuit against Aetna, Inc., Aetna Life Insurance company, and Aetna Specialty Pharmacy, LLC (collectively, Aetna), the third largest health insurance company in the United States, for violating the privacy rights of people taking HIV medication after a faulty mailing breached the HIV privacy rights of thousands of customers.
On August 28, 2017, Plaintiff Andrew Beckett (a pseudonym) – represented by the Legal Action Center, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Berger & Montague, P.C. (Co-Lead Class Counsel) – filed a Class Action Complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and on December 5, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint with 36 additional class representatives (in addition to Plaintiff Beckett) from 28 states and the District of Columbia, and additional common law and statutory claims. It also consolidated other class action lawsuits that had been filed since the filing of the Complaint.
According to the amended complaint, plaintiff Andrew Beckett received the Aetna mailing at a home he shares with his sister and her fiancé. Through the unopened mailing’s large transparent window, his sister learned that he was taking HIV medication. Andrew Beckett does not have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but takes Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a regimen that helps prevent a person from acquiring HIV.
The amended complaint alleges two breaches of privacy: first, in July 2017, that Aetna transmitted protected health information improperly to its legal counsel and a settlement administrator; and second, through sending a “Benefit Notice.” Plaintiffs allege that the Benefit Notice (defined in the Settlement Agreement) was sent in an envelope with a large transparent glassine window in such a manner that the instructions about how individuals could obtain their HIV medications were visible from the outside of the envelope. As a result, it revealed highly confidential HIV information to customers’ family members, roommates, friends, neighbors, landlords, mail carriers, and even complete strangers.
On January 16, 2018, Co-Lead Class Counsel filed a motion for preliminary approval of a settlement that requires Aetna to pay a non-reversionary cash amount of $17,161,200 and implement policies and procedures to prevent similar disclosures in the future. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which is subject to the Court’s approval, Aetna agreed to pay $17,161,200 to resolve the claims. All Settlement Class Members will automatically receive a Base Payment of either $75 to those whose protected health information was allegedly improperly disclosed by Aetna to its legal counsel and mail vendor, or at least $500 (inclusive of the $75 payment above) to those whose privacy was breached by the large-windowed envelope, whichever is applicable.
Settlement Class Members whose privacy was breached by the large-windowed envelope have the opportunity to seek additional monetary relief through the filing of a claim form documenting financial or non-financial harm. The proposed settlement also includes the implementation by Aetna of a new “best practices” policy to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, and provides for attorneys’ fees and expenses.
LAC Attorneys: Sally Friedman, Monica Welby and Karla Lopez
Significant Court Documents:
August 28, 2017 Class Action Complaint–– PDF.
December 5, 2017, Amended Class Action Complaint – PDF
January 16, 2018 – Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action
- [Proposed] Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action and Qualified Protective Order – PDF
- Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement – PDF
- Settlement Agreement (with Exhibits) – PDF
- Declarations in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action – PDF
August 24, 2017: Aetna breaches HIV privacy of customers in multiple states
August 28, 2017: Federal lawsuit: Aetna’s envelope revealed HIV information of 12,000