The director of public affairs for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Kate Ellis, said in a statement “The safety and security of our patients and team members is our top priority.” However, after a Cook County jury awarded more than $10 million to former AIMMC employees this week for two (2) separate incidents in a 2014 lawsuit, it seems doubtful they are truly concerned for anyone’s safety and security.
Dr. Caroline Ryan, a former anesthesiologist at AIMMC, and six (6) former nurses, brought a lawsuit against Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in the Illinois Circuit Court for two (2) separate incidents of misconduct.
The first incident gives allowance for a culture of tolerating misconduct. Dr. Stephen Laga has been accused of physically attacking Dr. Ryan. When Ryan immediately reported the incident to Advocate’s vice president of medical staff management, she was encouraged to drop her report “for the sake of the hospital.” According to the complaint, Laga had a long and documented history of violent conduct that the hospital has chosen to ignore continuously.
Workers have the right, among other rights, to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm. Yet workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings face significant risks of workplace violence. Violent incidents can come from a variety of sources with many going unreported. Doctors are more often protected as they bring in a considerable amount of profit to their healthcare organization. Clearly, this just isn’t right or legal.
At trial, Advocate claimed the hospital leadership had discretion when handling doctor misconduct and they acted reasonably in this instance. The jury disagreed and awarded Ryan $50,000 in compensatory damages and $7 million in punitive damages. It’s clear the jury was sending a message that just because doctors do generate significant revenues for hospitals, the culture of tolerating misconduct by them is not okay.
The second incident, occurring less than a year later, involved a prominent eye surgeon secretly videotaping women at the hospital and a medical clinic. Robert Weiss was an eye doctor at the Chicago Eye Institute at the 3000 block of Milwaukee Avenue. It was here that another employee found a camera inside a toilet in the women’s facilities. Recordings on the memory card showed Weiss in the recordings as well as other illegal and secret recordings in the locker room at Chicago Eye Institute maintained at AIMMC, where Weiss also held employment.
Weiss was arrested when the secret camera was discovered in April 2014 and charged with felony criminal conduct. Yet, this wasn’t Weiss’ first offense. Advocate knew or should have known that Weiss had a history of similar inappropriate conduct while working for the hospital. One instance includes complaints of him using his mobile phone to photograph female clients and employees without their consent. What is further bothersome is that Advocate delayed in his suspension, despite the history and criminal charges.
Filming someone in a private place without the consent of those present is illegal. To compensate the plaintiffs for the invasion of their privacy, the jury awarded each of the women amounts ranging from $50,000 to $275,000, totaling $1.175 million. In addition, the jury awarded $2 million in punitive damages. These awards made against Weiss and the jury found Advocate liable for the invasion of privacy, but did not hold Advocate accountable when asked if Weiss misconduct was reasonably foreseeable.
That may have relieved the hospital of further liability for now, but it seems apparent that the hospital is failing to act when violations of its own written policies are being reported.
We have a lot of experience helping people who have been abused by doctors both physically and through invasion of privacy. If you would like our help please call us at 312-346-5320 for a free consultation.