Privacy of Medical Records

Recently, I received in the mail a notification about a class action lawsuit regarding the prescription drug modafinil. Anyone who bought modafinil between 2006 and 2012 it is entitled to receive money from a settlement in the lawsuit. I have had a modafinil prescription for several years and, no doubt, I am entitled to participate in the settlement and receive some amount of money from it. I wonder, though, how they found out about my prescription. Medical records are supposed to be highly confidential. In many instances, it’s like pulling hen’s teeth when I want to get information from my own records. How did some lawyers I’ve never heard of get my name and address as a person who has bought modafinil? How did they do it without my knowledge? I suppose my modafinil prescription is now a matter of public record, since the lawyers involved in the settlement are no doubt required to file with the court a statement certifying that they gave notice of the settlement to a list of named people who were determined to have been modafinil users or purchasers. I’m not sure which is more unsettling, that I got overcharged for the drug, or that lawyers I don’t know were able to find out I used or bought a certain drug.

Oil and Gas and Securities

Many oil and gas drilling programs involve selling undivided fractional interests to “investors”. Who would imagine that every time they draw up an assignment of an undivided fractional interest they should think about securities law? Well, they should. A lawyer who prepares participation agreements, operating agreements, or working interest assignments for such programs is working with securities. Incredibly, many, and possibly most, oil and gas lawyers do not realize (or maybe just do not acknowledge) their practice involves securities law.

Whether the drilling program is set up for investors to receive working interest assignments, limited partnership certificates, LLC membership certificates, or some other evidence of participation, it falls within the purview of federal and state securities laws. Usually, it will be state securities commissioners taking enforcement action, often in the form of a “cease and desist” order, for starters. Most oil and gas drilling programs offered by small independent producers are eligible for exemptions from registration under securities laws. In practice, most offerors don’t bother to attend to qualifying for such exemptions. Most of the time, this causes no problem. This is called “being lucky”.

We’re now seeing drilling programs offered via the internet. For an introduction to the risks and pitfalls, see “Oil & Gas Investment Solicitations on the Internet” at Lewis Mosburg’s excellent Internet Oil & Gas Newsletter.

Whatever happened to…

Anybody besides me ever feel like they’re missing something in life because they don’t know “the rest of the story”? I think so because, once in a while, I see blurbs about such things on those TV magazine shows. Usually, after a while, I tend to just forget that there was something more I wanted to know. Just now, though, I was reminded of one such item, because I happened to take a look at the Ernie the Attorney Blog, which I think is the first “blawger” I noticed some time back in the early days of blogs. As a tangential thought to what he was actually writing about, he provided a link about the guy who took a ride in a lawn chair attached to helium weather balloons. I’d long since forgotten about that event; on seeing his reference to it, I was immediately fascinated, and decided to do my part to further immortalize it with another link on the web.

And, now, I find myself pondering something else I often wonder about, that being somebody else’s story; especially given the tragic conclusion of the lawn chair balloon guy’s story. As a lawyer, I’m often aware that I play a direct part in other peoples’ lives (hopefully helping and/or improving them in some way); yet, their lives had stories both before my entrance and after my exit from their books. After 30 years of this, I’m incredulated (I just made up that word!) by the thought of how much life I may have changed. It seems to me that lawyers ought to stop and remind themselves, occasionally, of the responsibility they carry by involving themselves in peoples’ lives the way we do.

Heh, and here I’ve been wondering why I don’t have enough time to get things done any more! Too much time rendered unproductive as a result of pondering irrelevant and forgettable things.