On Sept. 24, Judge Brian A. Davis of the Suffolk Superior Court Businesses Litigation Session allowed for preliminary approval of a class action settlement involving Mass General Brigham Inc.’s online cookie practices. Many individuals, including UMass Boston students, have been receiving settlement notices in the mail stating that they may be eligible for payment from this case. 

The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs John Doe and Jane Doe, and involves not only Mass General Brigham Inc., but also the partners they own and operate, such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Inc. 

Other defendant healthcare providers include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Inc.; The General Hospital Corporation; D/B/A Massachusetts General Hospital; North Shore Medical Center, Inc.; D/B/A Salem Hospital; Wentworth-Douglass Physician Corporation; Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc., and roughly 30 more care centers in Massachusetts. 

According to a website developed for the settlement, macookiesettlement.com, the plaintiffs allege “that the defendants did not obtain sufficient consent when placing third party analytics tools, cookies and pixels on their general and publicly accessible websites.” 

The plaintiffs also allege that these cookies and pixels were used to gather information about patients, which was subsequently sold to third parties.  

The defendants deny any wrongdoing or liability, and according to macookiesettlement.com, “believe that no Settlement Class Members, including the Doe Plaintiffs, have sustained any damages or injuries.” However, both sides agreed to a settlement to avoid the costs of a trial. The total amount the defendants must pay in the settlement is $18.4 million.

Macookiesettlement.com clarifies that this settlement does not involve the release of any individual’s private medical information, and that the case is not about a ransomware attack or data breach. 

“This case does not involve your medical records and information, or other ‘Protected Health Information,’ maintained or disclosed inside any patient portal used by defendants, including the Patient Gateway,” reads the website. “This case also does not involve any identity fraud, security breach, unauthorized use of Social Security or driver’s license numbers, or any donor or financial information.” (patientgateway.massgeneralbrigham.org)

Those eligible for payment under the settlement, otherwise known as Settlement Class Members, have three options they may consider.

Settlement Class Members may submit a claim form online by Dec. 15 and receive a cash payment of up to $100. The amount each Settlement Class Member receives depends on the number of individuals who submit claims. 

Settlement Class Members may also file an objection with the court by Dec. 30, 2021. Filing an objection with the court includes explaining why you do not like the settlement. According to macookiesettlement.com, the Court will then “consider your objection, and will either continue to approve the settlement, deny approval of the settlement or conditionally approve the settlement subject to certain changes.”  

Finally, Settlement Class Members may also choose to do nothing, meaning they do not submit a claim and therefore do not receive payment. 

The Final Approval Hearing for this case is scheduled to be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 18, 2022. The hearing will decide whether the settlement is adequate, reasonable and fair, and it will be open to the Settlement Class Members. Settlement Class Members are not required to attend the hearing. 

For more information regarding the cookie settlement, visit: https://macookiesettlement.com/

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