October 23rd, 2010
10:06 PM ET

Man who sparked tuberculosis scare can sue CDC, court rules

An American lawyer who sparked a tuberculosis scare in 2007 after flying to Europe and back while infected with the disease can sue the U.S. government for privacy invasion, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Andrew Speaker became the first American to be quarantined since 1963 for a rare form of tuberculosis after returning from his European wedding.

Speaker first tested positive for tuberculosis in March 2007, according to court documents. During his treatment, he alleges that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention became aware of his travel plans and assured him he was not contagious.

After he left, the CDC reclassified his tuberculosis as extensively drug-resistant, a more virulent strain, and urged him to return on a chartered flight at his own expense.

Unable to afford a private plane, Speaker says, he booked a commercial flight to Montreal, Quebec, and drove overland to New York, where he checked into a hospital and was served with a federal quarantine order.

Ultimately, his elevated diagnosis proved erroneous, but not before his identity was released to national media outlets, court documents state.

The Georgia-based attorney apologized on national television but later sued the government, saying the publicity destroyed his marriage, damaged his  professional reputation and subjected him to criticism and false allegations that he was forced to defend.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower court and said Speaker could sue the CDC for disclosing his identity and confidential medical information related to his treatment based on a "reasonable inference" that the CDC was the source of the disclosure.

Read the appeals court decision

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Filed under: Courts • Health
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. M2Stressed

    I dont believe the Hippa law applies to the CDC. their job is to protect the people of this country from an outbreak of any kind. they were doing their job and he did not follow their requests, he took it upon himself to do as he pleased sneaking back into the country, after going ahead with a wedding and flying to canada rather than staying put. Hes a lawyer who is a pompous ass and decided he could do as he pleased. we shouldnt award him for his bad behavior!!!

    October 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously Folks

      It is HIPAA and it does apply to the CDC to a point. They are responsible for ensuring the safety of the public. If there is a threat to the public they need to head it off. Naming him is still wrong, however, where is the proof that the CDC actually put his name out there? A good reporter would be able to figure it out once those who came in contact with him were notifited they had been exposed.

      October 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Geo In TO

    Can Canadians sue him ?

    October 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • DKJ

      Why not, come to America and you can sue anyone, well almost everyone.

      October 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd A

      I kinda wish you would, eh?

      October 24, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DKJ

    It is not surprising at all the man is suing, he's a lawyer and that is what they do.
    And all of you people that agree with him, don't complain about your taxes because it is we the people who will pay, as always.
    question, if his TB was active and he spread it through the nation or any other country he traveled through and CDC didn't release the information, how many would be complaining when the CDC cited the HIPPA rules? Ever seen anyone die of TB, not a prettey sight.

    October 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Zixlora

    Here's a thought on lawsuits... A lot of people who are pushing them are doing stupid stuff so they can sue and get lots of money without working too hard. Thus we have "Caution, contents may be hot!" or warnings not to use snow blowers on your roof. HOW STUPID ARE PEOPLE?!? Not to mention, how greedy? Too often is self-interest the motivation for people to do stuff. It's all "How can I benefit from this?" and not "How can what I do benefit others." Heck, why do you think the divorce rate is so high? A big part is because people only want everything to benefit them, and at the first sign of it not, on... divorce time... Just a thought

    October 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cregis

    He' didn't know he wasn't contagious when he disregarded other people's well being and exposed them to his
    TB. And some people want him to get taxpayers money, is that the story here? If other people on the plane did catch his TB then let them sue him and get any judgment he wins from the taxpayers.

    October 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. m2stressed

    The judges ruling will be over turned! the CDC DOES NOT FOLLOW HIPPA LAWS their job was to alert everyone he came in contact with. He went to Europr to get married knowing he had TB boarding two planes full of people and exposed them after being told to stay put until they did further testing. The CDC and people exposed are not bound by hippa and have family and friends they may have exposed. Its his own fault for not following his DRS and the CDCs advice to wait and not expose others. Its a crime when someone with aids intentionally exposes others whats the difference. If anything he should be punished not profit or be given accolades for what he did and how he did it.

    October 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • DKJ

      Good point, I like that idea.

      October 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      It was actually 7 flights. Think of the time spent in the airports, restaurants, bars, stores etc.. He exposed lots of people needlessly.

      This is an educated man whose Father in law is a researcher whose work is TB-you bet your butt he knows that he was contagious. Otherwise, why did he skip out of town days before he told the CDC that he was traveling? Why did he use other names when he started be-bopping around Europe and to enter Canada?

      come on people use your brain. THE CDC's job is to protect us from outbreaks and this man was thought to carry a highly resistant deadly strain of TB.

      October 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dr Reality

    If the CDC really believed he carried a drug resistant strain of TB that posed a serious threat to millions of people they should have offered to arrange and pay for the private charter flight.

    October 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Taylor

      I agree

      October 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd A

      Wrong. He should have NEVER been on a plane in the first place.

      October 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      When they told him they might have to keep him in a foreign hospital and treat him there to limit exposure or try to find other transport that would do the same. This dipstick booked and started an odyssey that involved sneaking back into the US via Canada. He flew 7 different flights all over and then entered the US by car-all because he knew his butt was carrying a possible deadly disease.

      October 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stacy

      I don't trust foreign hospitals, i wouldnt have stayed, either!

      October 25, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Todd A

    He shouldn't get a damn cent. He should never have went oveseas or anywhere for that matter if he had TB, highly contaigious or otherwise. He cost the government money and he wants compensation? For what?

    October 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • RobbeO

      @ Todd I agree w/ you 100 percent. 1) He either knew he was infected or, 2) possibly infected. Both are reasons to use common sense which this guy does not possess and I mean that. Now he wants to sue that is some Happy Gilmore BS.... The publics safety ALWAYS trumps all else for we are the public and the people and if I or my family were possibly to be exposed I would want to be informed, and yes of who enough said. Common sense all w/ out it most if not all flounder around in life like a frickin fish out of water and myself included.

      October 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Floria sigmundi

    Why are they being sued for trying to save lives?


    October 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    I'm sick and tired of wrong doers benefiting from their dangerous behaviors.

    October 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deb

      This guy has d-bag written all over him.

      The simple fact is TB is contagious, it is spread via airborne particulates and all he had to do is cough on a plane.

      I hope some smart aleck jury gives him 0 for his "troubles"

      October 24, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Deb

    Mr. Speaker’s tuberculosis was not as severe as originally thought, and he responded well to antibiotic therapy. On July 17, he underwent surgery to remove an infected part of his right lung. He spent 2 months in the hospital getting treatment for which he has to use antibiotics for 2 more years to become clear of the TB.

    The CBC's job is to protect us from F-ups like this so if he was offended by the "wanted" poster that he CAUSED by recklessly traveling when he clearly was told that it was not good to travel. His telling the world they didn't tell him he was forbidden-is a shade of lawyer gray in which he twist the words to claim they didn't tell him he couldn't travel.

    He changed his flights because he didn't want to get put on restriction and then when the CDC found him in Europe anyway they told him to stay put and he took off again.

    This guy is a CLASS A jerk who now wants to grab some cash from the feds. I hope a jury LOL at his ridiculous claim of not knowing TB is a contagious disease. His father in law works for the CDC in the same field and in that area of expertise and this Lawyer, someone who went to schools of higher learning is claiming that he didn't know?
    I smell it...BS

    October 24, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bard

    And the people that think he should get millions are the same people who would be screaming at the CDC and the government if he was actually highly contagious but nothing was done about it. You can't have it both ways.

    October 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. people

    What he did put others at risk.(big period) Everyone on the plane should sue him for endangering their lives. Even if the risk was tiny it's not his right to put others at risk. He had TB it's contagious, an airplane is probably the WORST place to be, recirculated air for extended periods of time. What a first class jerk! He should be JAILED in a small private cell with no windows for the rest of his slimy life.

    October 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mrs C

    hmmmm I wonder how this conversation would be if it were you are your family members on the plane......in danger...

    of being in contact with TB would you take his side then, he was wrong and maybe they thought be exposing him they could stop him, after all he did make a move for it. The same procedure the Feds us to catch a fugitive

    October 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mrs C

    hmmmm I wonder how this conversation would be if it were you or your family memers on the plane......in danger...

    of being in contact with TB would you take his side then, he was wrong and maybe they thought be exposing him they could stop him, after all he did make a move for it. The same procedure the Feds us to catch a fugitive

    October 24, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
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