Reporting Contagious Disease
Opinion rules that a lawyer may not reveal confidential information concerning his client's contagious disease.
Editor's Note: This opinion was decided prior to the 2003 amendment to the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct. See Rule 1.6(b)(3).
During the course of representation, Attorney L learned that Client C has a contagious disease which can be transmitted through casual contact in a normal everyday setting. The client currently works as a waiter. Lawyer L has consulted with a public health official concerning the disease in question but has not revealed the name of the client. Lawyer L was informed by the public health official that although the disease is contagious and can be transmitted by touch, quarantine is not warranted under the circumstances. Had the disease been more serious, could Lawyer L have reported the identity of the client to the local public health authorities along with the information that the client is infected without the client's consent?
No. Since the subject information was gained in the professional relationship and disclosure would likely be embarrassing or detrimental to the client, it must be considered confidential information which is protected from disclosure by Rule 4(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. This would be true regardless of the seriousness of the client's disease. See RPC 120.