Though they helped him obtain a $4 million verdict against a hospital he accused of not doing enough to stop him from harming himself, a lawyer has sued his former personal injury attorneys, claiming they disclosed too much of his personal information in self-promoting statements about the case they made to the press and didn't file his personal information under seal.
Philip W. Sandler, a former corporate law and tax attorney, filed a complaint May 5 in Cook County Circuit Court against personal injury law firm Burke Wise Morrissey & Kaveny LLC, as well as attorneys Elizabeth A. Kaveny and David J. Rashid, individually. BWMK represented Sandler in a medical malpractice action he brought against Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital on July 15, 2009, regarding an incident Aug. 6, 2007, during which he was an admitted patient and sustained self-inflicted life-threatening injuries.
On April 16, 2010, the hospital filed a motion to access Sandler’s information that otherwise would be protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In response on June 9, Sandler’s original lawyers in the matter, Anesi Ozmon Rodin & Novak, provided details like his full name, home address and Social Security number, as well as names of medical facilities and treating physicians, but did not file the information under seal, leaving the information publicly accessible.
On June 18, 2010, attorneys for Riverside Psychiatric and Counseling Associates, P.C., and Sapana Chokshi, M.D., the other medical malpractice defendants, moved for a subpoena under the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Act, reiterating the information from the earlier document, court documents said.
On July 27, 2010, Anesi Ozmon withdrew from representing Sandler and was replaced by Lawrence H. Hyman & Associates and Searcy L. Simpson Jr. Hyman withdrew Sept. 1, 2010, replaced by Zachary M. Bravos. On May 27, 2011, Sandler’s team filed a four-count First Amended Complaint. On March 11, 2014, BWMK filed on behalf of Sandler as Simpson and Bravos withdrew. About 14 month later, on May 5, 2015, a jury entered a verdict awarding Sandler more than $4.2 million.
Three days later, BWMK issued a press release touting the award, noting Sandler “suffered from depression and is now permanently disabled” and said “the hospital allowed him access to his boating knife … and the patient attempted suicide, slashing himself more than 30 times.”
Sandler said Kaveny also gave detailed information in an interview with the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, despite not having his informed consent to disclose such facts. The information later appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, My Suburban Life and Patch.com, all available through online searches of Sandler’s name. The firm also posted the press release to its website and linked to the Law Bulletin article, and Sandler said the site uses Sandler’s story as a means of advertising the firm’s services to other people who have undergone similar experiences.
According to Sandler’s complaint, BWMK never moved to seal the court file or redact any of the personal health information. On June 26, 2015, BWMK filed a post-trial motion seeking a new trial to push for punitive damages against the hospital. In that motion, “Kaveny and BWMK specifically cited” significant personal information, “including quotations of statements he made to his mental health treaters.”
On Oct. 15, 2015, the malpractice complaint was dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a settlement with Advocate, substantially reducing the jury’s award.
On Dec. 14, 2016, Sandler’s new attorneys, Perl & Goodsnyder, Ltd., demanded BWMK remove the information from its website and asked it to execute a substitution of attorneys form so Perl & Goodsnyder could seek a court order sealing the file in the malpractice suit. Sandler alleges in his complaint that Kaveny responded with an email saying she would sign forms in exchange for a release of liability against her and BWMK.
On Jan. 25, 2017, Perl & Goodsnyder appeared before Judge Daniel J. Lynch in hopes of sealing the record. On Feb. 16, Lynch denied the motion, saying he lacked jurisdiction to substitute attorneys.
Sandler seeks damages of at least $50,000. He called the defendants’ conduct “extreme and outrageous, and said his ex-lawyers’ conduct caused him to endure “severe emotional distress.”