From Courthouse News Service, By REBEKAH KEARN, 03/14/13 –
SAN DIEGO (CN) – A lurid but vague class action accuses corrupt and abusive IRS agents of stealing 10 million people’s medical records without a warrant – including “intimate medical records of every state judge in California.”
John Doe Company sued 15 John Doe IRS agents in Superior Court.
“This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power by several Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) agents (collectively referred to as ‘defendants’ herein) during a raid of John Doe Company, in the Southern District of California, on March 11, 2011,” the complaint states. “In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans, including at least 1,000,000 Californians.
“No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search. IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA [sic: recte HIPAA] facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records. The IRS agents ignored and discarded each of these warnings, ignored their own published and public-reliant rules and governing ethical requirements, and ignored the limitations of the court’s search warrant authorization, seizing the records under threat of destroying company property.”
Plaintiff’s attorney Robert E. Barnes declined to elaborate on the complaint’s allegations, saying he will have more information “in a few months.”
“I had to file to protect against the statute of limitations being an issue, but am still investigating all facts,” Barnes told Courthouse News in an email.
The putative class claims the IRS agents’ seizure of medical records violated the 4th Amendment.
“These medical records contained intimate and private information of more than 10,000,000 Americans, information that by its nature includes information about treatment for any kind of medical concern, including psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual or drug treatment, and a wide range of medical matters covering the most intimate and private of concerns,” the complaint states.
“Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over. Moreover, even though defendants knew that the records they were seizing were not included within the scope of the search warrant, the defendants nonetheless searched and seized the records without making any attempt to segregate the files from those that could possibly be related to the search warrant. In fact, no effort was made at all to even try maintaining the illusion of legitimacy and legality.
“After being put on notice of the illicit seizure, the IRS agents refused to return the records, continued to keep the records for the prying eyes of IRS peeping toms, and keep the records to this very day. The records may concern the intimate medical records of every state judge in California, every state court employee in California, leading and politically controversial members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild, and prominent citizens in the world of entertainment, business and government, from all walks of life.”
To top it off, the IRS agents were rude, childish and arrogant, the complaint states:
“Adding insult to injury, after unlawfully seizing the records and searching their intimate parts, defendants decided to use John Doe Company’s media system to watch basketball, ordering pizza and Coca-Cola, to take in part of the NCAA tournament, illustrating their complete disregard of the court’s order and the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.
“This complaint seeks justice for each and all of those individuals subjected to the invasive and unlawful search and seizure conducted on March 11, 2011.”
The complaint adds: “The search warrant authorized the seizure of financial records related principally to a former employee of the company; it did not authorize any seizure of any health care or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter.
“While executing the warrant, the defendants seized personal mobile phones, including all the data and information on those phones, without any employing the proper and procedurally correct screening methods to protect private and privileged information, all of which was completely unapproved by the search warrant.”
The IRS’ data theft was so enormous it affects “roughly one out of every twenty-five adult American citizens,” the complaint states.
It claims that one of the IRS agents involved has a “history of misconduct, ethical breaches, and criminal activity,” including lying to grand juries, lying to witnesses about their rights during investigations, and “abusing search warrants and subpoenas for privileged information.”
It claims the IRS refuses to reveal which agents participated in the raid, who saw the medical records, and which agents have the records today.
The class seeks $25,000 in compensatory damages “per violation per individual” and punitive damages for constitutional violations.
It also seeks declaratory judgment “to protect the proprietary and privileged information of the medical records seized,” an injunction preventing the IRS from sharing the information, and an order “compelling the return of all such records and the purging of government databases of all such records, in whatever form kept or accessible.”
The class is represented by Robert E. Barnes of Malibu.