<a href="mailto: dvsavini@cbs.com; mhlebeau@cbs.com; mayoungerman@cbs.com" target="_blank">Send Your Tips To Dave Savini</a>By Dave Savini

(CBS) — The identities of patients from all over the Chicago area were put at risk when thousands of medical files containing personal information were tossed in the trash. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini found the dumpster, alerted authorities and Tuesday, the Illinois Attorney General filed a lawsuit that could result in millions of dollars in fines.

What CBS 2 found in the garbage dumpster, lead to a lawsuit being filed against a Northbrook company called Filefax for allegedly violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Personal Information Protection Act.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan took the swift action filing the suit Tuesday following the February CBS 2 investigation.

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“So they’ve completely violated the law,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “They completely violated peoples’ trust and we want to hold them accountable for that.”

Medical, financial and other personal records were just dumped in the garbage, including Diane Scarpelli’s records.

“I couldn’t believe that somebody did that,” said Scarpelli. “And I was happy you got the file and not some random person who would have taken advantage of us.”

Scarpelli was a patient at Suburban Lung Associates, which had hired Filefax to store, maintain then properly destroy records like hers.

“My driver’s license, my Social Security Number, my husband’s Social Security Number was in there,” said Scarpelli. “Where I live, my phone number, my insurance cards.”
In February, CBS 2 exposed multiple days of this dumpster being filled with records, even tracking down a woman who filled her blue can up ten times with 1100 pounds of medical files to be recycled. She said Filefax gave her permission to take the records.

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“It cannot simply be given to anybody who walks into their office saying that they’d like to allegedly have this to be recycled,” said Madigan.

CBS 2 previously notified Northbrook police and they ordered Filefax to take a dumpster full of files back inside. No comment from Filefax.

According to Madigan, each mishandled medical file could result in a $50,000 fine, which could be millions of dollars.

A federal investigation into Filefax also is underway.

Suburban Lung Associates issued a statement saying, “Suburban Lung Associates continues to cooperate with the authorities in their investigation of Filefax. We believe this is an isolated incident only involving records of patients last seen in 2004.

We mailed letters to individuals who were potentially impacted, issued a press release to media and posted information on our website in order to reach any individuals whose names or mailing addresses were unavailable. We have offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection for potentially impacted individuals. We have set up a toll-free number to address questions (877-451-9366).

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Suburban Lung Associates has ended its contract with Filefax and engaged a different company for secure storage and destruction of medical records.”