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NFL star Jason Pierre-Paul sues ESPN reporter for tweeting medical records

How one tweet reportedly cost $15,000 in damages.


Josh Katzowitz


While setting off fireworks last July 4, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul badly burned his skin when one exploded in his hand. Eventually, one of Pierre-Paul’s index fingers had to be amputated, as reported by ESPN at the time, but he went on to have a decent-enough 2015 NFL season.

All the while, he hasn’t forgotten this tweet by ESPN reporter Adam Schefter.

And on Wednesday, the 27-year-old sued Schefter and ESPN for a violation of his privacy, according to the New York Post. According to the lawsuit, Schefter “improperly obtained” Pierre-Paul’s medical records and then posted them to his Twitter account, which at the time had a following of almost 4 million. (He now boasts about 4.5 million followers.)

“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.

ESPN and Schefter declined to comment to the Post, but in an interview with Sports Illustrated last July, Schefter said he didn’t seek out the records. Instead, he said they were provided to him.

I know news organizations are not governed by HIPAA laws, but in hindsight I could and should have done even more here due to the sensitivity of the situation… We’ve got a great group of editors and production staff, and I could have leaned on them even more. ESPN has trusted me on any number of stories over the years, and granted me great latitude, fortunately. Sometimes in the fast-paced news world we live in, it’s easy to forget you should lean on the knowledge and experience of the people surrounding you. They’re always there for everything, but especially stories like this. On this one, there should have been even more discussion than there was due to the sensitivity of the story; that’s on me.

As Forbes writes, Pierre-Paul claims that the Schefter tweet caused damages in excess of $15,000.

Already, Jackson Memorial Hospital has fired two employees for inappropriately handling Pierre-Paul’s medical records, but the suit says Schefter should be punished as well.

But as Forbes’s Darren Heitner writes, “Schefter and ESPN should feel comfortable with their defenses after learning about the lawsuit. If all else fails, Schefter can resort to employing a First Amendment defense of freedom of speech, which has been very kind to journalists in the past.”

Photo via Karen Blaha/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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