A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed over the stolen billing records of 2.2 million University of Utah Hospital and Clinics patients.

U. patient Patrick M. Beamish claims a courier for Perpetual Storage Inc. acted negligently in transporting the records, resulting in their theft and putting millions of people at "significant risk" of identity theft, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. The complaint seeks class-action status, which would need approval by a judge.

"Our main interest is making sure everyone is protected," said Karra J. Porter, of the Salt Lake firm Christensen & Jensen. "This isn't a money maker for us. Protection is the key concern."

Hospital officials on Tuesday announced the records of 2.2 million patients, dating back 16 years, had been stolen.

Tapes containing a backup of the hospital's master billing records had been picked up by a Perpetual Storage courier on the afternoon of June 1. Instead of using a secure van, the courier violated company policy by using his personal vehicle, officials said.

And instead of taking the records to the company's secure vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the courier took them to his home in Kearns, leaving the tapes inside a metal box on the front seat of his car overnight. In the early morning hours of June 2, police said, someone smashed the car's window and took the box and the tapes inside.

Already, patients are lining up to be a part of the proposed class-action lawsuit, Porter said.

"Judging by the number of phone calls we're already receiving, it's going to be substantial," she said.

Perpetual Storage officials declined comment Friday.

The U. has not been named in any lawsuits pertaining to the breach, but Porter said her firm could file a complaint as early as Monday.

"We're playing phone tag with the U.," Porter said Friday afternoon. "As a courtesy, we have not yet filed our notice of claim against them."

Hospital spokesman Chris Nelson declined to comment on any pending litigation Friday. "Our focus right now is on moving forward and making sure are patients are notified," he said.

More than 2.2 million notifications are in the process of being mailed out to affected patients. The first batch of letters should reach mailboxes early next week, Nelson said. About 2,300 patients had contacted the hospital's hotline as of noon Friday.

The hospital has offered a free year of credit monitoring to the 1.3 million patients whose Social Security numbers were included in the stolen records. Beamish is suing for immediate and ongoing credit monitoring and unconditional credit repair for any damages sustained.

"Credit monitoring is helpful because it tells you when something has happened," Porter said. "It doesn't fix it."

In suing for damages, Beamish and his attorneys may seek the creation of an escrow account to remedy any future problems that may arise from the breach.

The risk of damages "will not be eliminated if the records are returned," the lawsuit states. "Identity theft can and often is accomplished by recording information and returning or disposing of the original material source."


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