Going to the doctor naturally causes many people to feel uneasy. Whether you are sick or if you are simply going for an annual or semi-annual preventative care visit, many people are uneasy because of various reasons such as being afraid of getting shots or having blood work done, afraid of procedures that are done in the doctor’s office or maybe just uneasy about possibly being diagnosed with an illness that you had no symptoms of. These reasons are all common reasons why people may be afraid or uneasy about visiting their doctor.
When visiting the doctor, it’s normal to feel a sense of privacy between you and your doctor and/or nurse because there is one on one time in a private room where you can have an examination done and talk to your doctor with questions or concerns regarding your health. While being examined at a doctor’s office, it’s likely that you would never second guess your privacy while in the exam room regarding your conversation and examination with your doctor being photographed and/or videotaped. However, there is a group of women who will likely be uneasy for life because the unthinkable occurred to them; They were videotaped and photographed without consent or knowledge while having an examination with their physician.
In February of 2013, it was discovered that Dr. Levy, a gynecologist at John’s Hopkins Hospital, was secretly taking sexual pictures and videos of his patients during their appointments. Your initial thought may be how was he able to pull off such actions. Well, Dr. Levy allegedly used high tech pens that contained video cameras and had hidden cameras in numerous areas throughout exam rooms. Dr. Levy practiced as a gynecologist since 1998 and apparently had a warm demeanor which allowed his patients to feel comfortable and trusting while in his presence. After police found the numerous volumes of videos and photographs, Dr. Levy decided that he did not want to deal with the shame and humiliation and committed suicide by placing a bag of helium over his head. He left his wife an apology note explaining how he could not stand to see her face the truth of what he had done.
Several of Dr. Levy’s patients, 8,344 to be exact, filed a class action law suit against John’s Hopkins Hospital and Dr. Levy, which settled in July of 2014 for $190 million. In determining the amount to distribute to each class member, assessments were performed to evaluate the symptoms of each woman after they learned of what Dr. Levy had done. Based on the personal evaluations and assessments, each woman received a payout of anywhere from $1,750 to $26,048. Although Dr. Levy’s patients did not sustain any physical injuries, many of them have expressed how they are emotionally scarred. Many of the women choose to remain anonymous, but a few have made statements about the effects of this ordeal. They are left traumatized, uncertain and even afraid to go back to any doctor out of fear that they will be secretly recorded and that their privacy will again be violated.
It's obvious that Dr. Levy and John’s Hopkins Hospital violated all boundaries of privacy and were negligent, however, you may be wondering what exactly was alleged in the lawsuit against John’s Hopkins and Dr. Levy. So, we will walk through the allegations in the Complaint.
The first count in the Complaint is medical negligence and negligent and grossly negligent hiring, retention, supervision, selection, qualification and credentialing. Under this count, Plaintiffs allege that since Dr. Levy was an agent and/ or employee of John’s Hopkins, the hospital had a duty to ensure and maintain patient privacy and safety. In addition, this count alleged that the hospital failed at its duty to investigate, credential, monitor and supervise competent physicians and surgeons under standards of medical practice.
The second count in the Complaint is intrusion upon Plaintiffs’ seclusion – invasion of privacy. This count addresses how Dr. Levy videotaped and recorded his patients without their consent and/or knowledge. This count also addresses how such actions violate The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
The third count in the Complaint is intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiffs allege that Dr. Levy’s actions of him videotaping and recording them constituted “extreme, outrageous and unreasonable” conduct, which caused Plaintiffs to suffer from severe emotional distress in the forms of pain, fear, anxiety and humiliation.
The fourth count in the Complaint is battery. Plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Levy made harmful and offensive sexual contact with them. Plaintiffs further allege that such conduct would offend any normal person and as a result, Plaintiffs suffered severe emotional distress, embarrassment, anxiety, etc.
The fifth count in the Complaint is negligent entrustment. This count addresses how John’s Hopkins granted privileges to Dr. Levy such as use of the facility, devices, equipment, etc., and as such, the hospital had a duty to ensure that Dr. Levy was competent and trustworthy enough be entrusted with patients.
The sixth and final count in the Complaint is lack of informed consent. Plaintiffs allege that since Dr. Levy did not tell his patients of his intent to videotape and/or photograph them during examinations, he violated standards of care. Plaintiffs further allege that they, as well as any other prudent persons, would not have consented to such conduct. Plaintiffs allege that that both non-economic and economic damages would have been avoided had Dr. Levy not videotaped and/ or recorded them.
A copy of the full amended Complaint as well as settlement facts can be found at: http://www.drlevyclassaction.com/pdf/Amended-Class-Action-Complaint.pdf.
Although the actions of Dr. Levy occurred in Baltimore, Maryland and is an uncommon practice of physicians, this type of negligence can occur anywhere. Just as Maryland, North Carolina has laws in effect that protect patients when occurrences such as this occur. If you believe that you have been a victim of invasion of privacy alone, or due to negligence and/or negligent entrustment, hiring retention or supervision, please give our office a call at 704-714-1450 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys to discuss your rights and possible actions.