Courthouse News reports:
A couple says Kaiser disclosed confidential birth records to an adopted child who was searching for his birth parents.
The plaintiffs, using pseudonyms, said James Ingraffia showed up on their doorstep, claiming to be their son. The birth parents say this clued them in that Kaiser had given their birth son confidential, sealed birth records.
Ingraffia’s adopted parents Salvator and Margaret helped James find his birth parents, the couple says in their complaint in Alameda Superior Court.
“Plaintiffs suffered damages in the form of fear, apprehension, shock to the nervous system and continuous and repeated episodes of severe emotional distress when they learned that although they had taken the necessary legal steps to keep information about James Ingraffia’s birth confidential and private, Defendant Kaiser had broken the seal on such records and disclosed them,” the complaint says.
Read more on Courthouse News.
Reading the complaint, I’m struck by a few things:
1. The plaintiffs seemingly offer no evidence that anyone at Kaiser breached confidentiality. The lawsuit appears premised on a “how else could he have found out?” basis for blaming Kaiser. The young man had recently turned 21 at the time he first appeared on their doorstep. Was reaching the age of majority somehow connected to how he found out or when he found out? Could he have found out by availing himself of California’s Adoptions Information Act? If his parents ever relinquished parental rights or a court terminated their rights, it seems a possibility.
2. The complaint alleges that their biological child repeatedly intruded on their home and in other places where they might get together with family. It also alleges that the young man repeatedly tried to contact them via text messages and e-mail. They do not characterize these as angry/confrontational contacts, and I am left wondering how much of this is just the actions of a young man trying to get his birth parents to acknowledge him as their son. Can you imagine being an adopted child and trying to find your parents, only to have them not only reject you but sue you for invading their privacy? And for them to ask a court to enjoin you from contacting them again via any means?
3. The adoptive parents are also defendants in the lawsuit for allegedly assisting their child in finding his birth parents, although there is no evidence of that provided, either. The plaintiffs allege that the adoptive parents were negligent and should have known that their assistance would result in pain, suffering, distress, etc. to the plaintiffs. How should they have known that? Perhaps the adoptive parents thought the birth parents might find themselves glad to see their child after so many years. Or perhaps they realized their child was suffering and they did what good parents do – try to help their child. In any event, suing the adoptive parents who raised the child you gave away seems, at the very least, ungrateful.
4. Attempting to protect their own privacy, the biological parents sued as Jane and John Doe, but did not file this under seal, thereby exposing their birth son (and themselves) to media scrutiny. As far as I can tell, nothing seems to stop the young man or his adoptive parents from naming the birth parents in any media coverage, leading me to wonder whether the parents or their attorney know about the Streisand Effect.
The Does’ identities are not only at risk of media publication as a result of the lawsuit leading to media coverage, but their identities are easily discoverable. I e-mailed the Doe’s attorney yesterday morning asking her for some questions about this case and pointing out to her that leaving her clients’ home address in the complaint as the location of the offense somewhat undermines calling them Doe in court records. I’ve decided not to name them at this time, but a simple Google search gave me her clients’ names within a matter of minutes.