Lawsuit filed against Johns Hopkins over privacy breach

Julia Filip reports that a potential class action lawsuit has been filed by three former patients of Dr. Nikita Levy against the Johns Hopkins Health System dba The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The lawsuit arises from disclosures that Dr. Levy was secretly recording and photographing his OB/GYN patients. The doctor committed suicide after the hospital became aware of this conduct from another employee and terminated him. Law enforcement recovered numerous files and materials from his home.

There was no doubt in my mind that lawsuits would be filed in this case. It’s not clear from the news story whether the complainants allege that they were actually photographed or recorded.

According to Filip:

They seek class certification, compensatory and punitive damages for invasion of privacy, lack of informed consent, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, violations of Maryland visual surveillance laws, and costs of therapy and counseling.

They also want Johns Hopkins to find and destroy all photographs and videos made of Levy’s patients, to notify all potential victims, and to prevent exploitation of patients.

I do not have a copy of the lawsuit, but I would guess that the hospital would love nothing better than to destroy such materials if and when they are permitted to. And it’s also clear that they have every intention of notifying victims and potential victims, but some of that depends on law enforcement cooperating with them and them being able to identify the patients in the pictures or videos. This will not be an easy or quick task as at this point, there’s no clear timeframe for when this conduct even started.

Without a copy of the complaint available, it may be that the plaintiffs in this case were not the subjects of his recording. In that case, they may not have standing to sue unless Maryland’s courts recognize emotional distress and psychological damages as harm. Perhaps someone familiar with Maryland law can clarify that. I’ve emailed their attorney to ask him if he can comment on those questions.

I expect this will be a tough case for the hospital to defend against, and at this point, I won’t even try to  predict what will happen if the lawsuit doesn’t settle.

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