Beckett v. Aetna

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Aetna agrees to pay more than $17 million to settle HIV privacy breach lawsuit

After what is believed to be the world’s largest HIV privacy data breach, Aetna Inc. agreed Jan. 16 to a $17 million settlement in a class action lawsuit filed after a faulty mailing revealed the private medical information of thousands of its customers. The first round of settlement checks in the Beckett v. Aetna lawsuit will be sent on Dec. 28, 2018.

In July 2017, current and former customers of Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurance company, were alarmed when they received letters with large transparent windows that accidentally revealed that the recipients were prescribed HIV medications.

Among those who got the mailing was “Andrew Beckett,” a Pennsylvania resident who became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, using the pseudonym of the fictional lawyer with HIV played by Tom Hanks in his Academy Award-winning role the 1993 movie Philadelphia.

The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, the Legal Action Center, and Berger & Montague, P.C. filed the lawsuit in August 2017 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs included people taking medication to treat HIV as well as people who, like Beckett, take PrEP, a pre-exposure prophylactic that prevents HIV.

“HIV still has a negative stigma associated with it, and I am pleased that this encouraging agreement with Aetna shows that HIV-related information warrants special care,” Beckett said.

Aetna improperly sent to its legal counsel and a mail vendor the names of 13,487 customers who had been prescribed HIV medications, papers filed in support of the settlement allege. Of those, 11,875 people received the large-windowed envelopes revealing confidential HIV-related information, according to the papers.

Aetna has 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 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 received the large-windowed envelope.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit also may seek additional monetary relief of up to $20,000 by documenting financial or non-financial harm.

The settlement 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.


October 16, 2018 – Order Granting Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Attorneys’ Fees, Expenses, and Class Representative Service Awards

May 11, 2018 – Preliminary Approval Order

Jan. 16, 2018 – Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class Action Settlement

Dec. 5, 2017 – Amended Class Action Complaint

Aug. 28, 2017 – Class Action Complaint


Jan. 17, 2018 – Aetna Agrees To Pay Over $17 Million To Settle HIV Privacy Breach Class Action

Sept. 28, 2017 – Aetna to Provide Emergency Relief to Members Affected by HIV/AIDS Privacy Breach

Aug. 28, 2017 – Federal lawsuit: Aetna’s envelope revealed HIV information of 12,000 customers in 23 states

Aug. 24, 2017 – Aetna breaches HIV privacy of customers in multiple states


Jan. 17, 2018 (CNN) Aetna customers get $17 million in HIV privacy settlement

Jan. 17, 2018 (NPR/WHYY) Aetna agrees to pay $17M in massive HIV privacy breach