Kowalski v. Henry Ford Macomb Hospital – 12.143

Kowalski v. Henry Ford Macomb Hospital
Digest No. 12.143

Section 421.29(1)(b)

Cite as: Kowalski v Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, unpublished opinion of the Macomb Circuit Court, issued January 27, 2012 (Docket No. 2011-2690-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Robert P. Kowalski
Employer: Henry Ford Macomb Hospital
Docket no.: 2011-2690-AE
Date of decision: January 27, 2012

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HOLDING: It is not a willful and wanton disregard of an employer’s interests to repeatedly access confidential patient information without explicit authorization when (1) the employer had a vague and discretionary policy regarding access to the confidential information, and (2) the employee, in the course of accessing information related to his job duties, is unable to avoid viewing confidential information unrelated to his assigned tasks.

FACTS: Claimant (appellant) worked as a regulatory documentation clerk at the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.  As a documentation clerk, claimant used a computer system (the MIDAS system) to enter patient Medicaid information.  Although claimant had unrestricted access to the MIDAS computer suite and all its associated confidential patient information, the employer claimed that claimant was only authorized to view information on two particular MIDAS screens.  The employer maintained that claimant was only to access information that he had a “need to know.”  Claimant testified to his belief that he was authorized to view information in any part of the MIDAS system in order to complete job-related tasks.  After claimant submitted a report to his supervisor that contained patient information outside the scope of claimant’s supposed purview, a computer audit was initiated to investigate claimant’s MIDAS access history.  The audit revealed that claimant had accessed MIDAS screens with information that the employer considered unrelated to his job duties.  Claimant testified at a hearing before an ALJ that he had accessed the information on these screens in order to perform job-related tasks.  Although the ALJ found that “the employer failed to establish that [claimant] willfully, wantonly, and intentionally . . . disregard[ed] . . . standards of behavior which the employer had the right to expect,” the Board of Review reversed the decision.  The Board based their decision on a finding that claimant deliberately accessed a file without authorization.  At the Board hearing, claimant presented evidence that the MIDAS system required him to go through the allegedly unauthorized screens in order to access the authorized screens.

DECISION: Decision of the Board of Review was not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record.  Decision of the Board of Review reversed and decision of the ALJ affirmed.

RATIONALE: Because (1) there were valid reasons for claimant to access the entire MIDAS system, rather than the limited use supposed by the employer’s “need to know” policy, and (2) access to the authorized screens required going through the unauthorized screens first, the claimant’s actions were a “good faith error in judgement.”

Digest Author: James Mestichelli, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest Updated: 3/1/2016

Hurley Medical Center v. Thames – 16.77

Hurley Medical Center v. Thames
Digest No. 16.77

Section 421.38(1)

Cite as: Hurley Medical Center v Thames, unpublished opinion of the Genesee County Circuit Court, issued September 5, 2006 (Docket No. 06-84151-AE).

Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Kimberly Thames
Employer: Hurley Medical Center
Date of decision: September 5, 2006

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HOLDING: Under MCL 421.38(1), a reviewing court can only obtain jurisdiction over an appeal if the appeal is filed within 30 days of a lower court’s decision.

FACTS: On June 20, 2006, Appellant Hurley Medical Center filed an application for leave to appeal with the Genesee County Circuit Court. Appellee filed its answer on July 10, 2006. During their hearing, Appellee argued that Hurley’s appeal was filed outside the thirty day statutory appeal period required by MCL 421.38(1) and moved to dismiss Hurley’s leave to appeal. The Genesee County Circuit Court issued an order dismissing Hurley Medical Center’s application for leave to appeal on August 16, 2006. Hurley filed a motion to reconsider with the Court.

DECISION: The Court denied Hurley Medical Center’s motion for reconsideration because Hurley failed to show that the Court’s August 16, 2006 decision contained palpable error.

RATIONALE: MCL 421.38(1) requires a party to file an appeal within 30 days of a lower court’s decision. In Gunderson v Rose Hill Realty, 136 Mich App 559 (1984), the Michigan Court of Appeals held that MCL 421.38 is a jurisdictional statute. This means that a reviewing court can only obtain jurisdiction over an appeal if the appeal is filed within the 30 day period required by MCL 421.38(1).

The Genesee County Circuit Court denied Hurley’s application for leave on jurisdictional grounds on August 16, 2006 because the application for leave was filed beyond the thirty day period provided by MCL 421.38(1). In its motion for reconsideration, Hurley merely presented the same issues from its earlier application for leave and failed to demonstrate that the Court’s August 16, 2006 decision contained palpable error. For that reason, the Court denied Hurley’s motion for reconsideration.

Digest author: Sean Higgins, Michigan Law, Class of 2017
Digest updated: 10/31/2017