Genetic Testing Meets Big Data: Torts and Contract Law Issues

38 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2014 Last revised: 29 May 2018

See all articles by Ifeoma Ajunwa

Ifeoma Ajunwa

Emory University School of Law; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: October 7, 2014


Technological advances pertaining to genetic testing hold much promise for the prevention of disease. Novel legal issues, however, accompany those advances. As the genomic age meets the age of Big Data, this Article details risks associated with genetic testing, focusing in particular on the negligent disclosure of genetic information resulting in financial and emotional harm. The Article then examines the availability of statutory and tort remedies for that harm. The Article finds that, given the exceptional social position of genetic information, there is a need for new solutions such as more rigorous informed consent guidelines for genetic testing and the promulgation of a new tort, the tort of genetic information disclosure. This is a particularly timely project given the recent Supreme Court ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology vs. Myriad Genetics. That ruling denies human gene patents and allows for more widespread availability of genetic testing, especially in the context of breast cancer screening. As foreseeably more individuals partake in genetic testing, and as that information becomes subsumed in the Big Data phenomenon, the probability of the (inadvertent) disclosure of their genetic information and the peril of injury from such disclosure demands greater legal attention.

Keywords: Health Law, Big Data, Genetic Discrimination, GINA, Genetic Identity Theft, Gene Theft, Ethics, Data Usage, Marketing, Tort Law, Contract Law, Fiduciary Duty, Anti-Discrimination, Invasion of Privacy, Breach of Confidence, Speculative Damages, Proximate Cause

Suggested Citation

Ajunwa, Ifeoma, Genetic Testing Meets Big Data: Torts and Contract Law Issues (October 7, 2014). Ifeoma Ajunwa, Genetic Testing Meets Big Data: Tort and Contract Law Issues, 75 Ohio St. L. J. 1225 (2014)., Available at SSRN:

Ifeoma Ajunwa (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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