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.
On May 10, 2018, the court issued an order granting preliminary approval of the settlement and a qualified protective order. The order appointed the Angeion Group, LLC as the Settlement Administrator and set a Final Approval Hearing for October 15, 2018.
On June 1, 2018, the settlement administrator mailed the Notice of Settlement and claim forms to class members. Please note these important upcoming dates:
On October 16, 2018, the court granted final approval of the settlement.
On December 28, 2018, we are happy to report that the first round of settlement checks were mailed.
- All class members sent the July 2017 mailing will receive a base payment of $642.43.
- Class members who did not submit a claim, and for whom Aetna provided a Social Security Number, were sent $642.43 on Dec. 28, 2018.
- Class members who did not submit a claim, and for whom Aetna was unable to provide a Social Security Number, were sent $500 on Dec. 28, 2018 and will be sent an additional $142.43 in January 2019.
- Class members who submitted a claim, and for whom Aetna provided a Social Security Number, were sent the full amount of their approved claim and the $642.43 base payment on Dec. 28, 2018.
- Class members who submitted a claim, but for whom Aetna was unable to provide a Social Security Number, were sent $500 and notice of the amount of their approved claim on Dec. 28, 2018. In a separate mailing, these class members will receive a tax form and written instructions from the Settlement Administrator. Once the tax form is returned to the Settlement Administrator, these class members will be sent their approved claim amount and the $142.43 balance of the base payment.
- Class members whose protected health information was allegedly improperly transmitted by Aetna to its legal counsel without proper authorization, and who were not sent the July 2017 mailing, were sent $75 on Dec. 28, 2018.
Additional information about the settlement is available at www.BeckettPrivacyClassAction.com. For more information, people can also call the settlement administrator at (877) 416-7259, the Legal Action Center at (212) 243-1313 or the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania at (215) 587-9377.
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
October 16, 2018:
- Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement-PDF
- Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees, Expenses, and Class Representative Service Awards– 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
September 28, 2017: Aetna to Provide Emergency Relief to Members Affected by HIV/AIDS Privacy Breach