CHICAGO (CN) - A physician ruined a college student's career prospects by taking photos of her recovering from an alcohol binge in a hospital emergency room and posting them, with comments, on Facebook and Instagram, the student claims in court.
Elena Chernyakova sued Dr. Vinaya Puppala, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the Feinberg School of Medicine in Cook County Court.
"On or about June 12-13, 2013, Elena Chernyakova was transported by an ambulance to the emergency room of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, because she needed emergency treatment for overconsumption of alcoholic beverages," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff arrived at the ER at or around 3 a.m. on July 13, 2013, and was unconscious until 11:45 a.m. later that morning, and was not released from the hospital until 5:30 p.m. that evening.
"Plaintiff was in a vulnerable state.
"At or around 12:00 noon on June 13, 2013, Dr. Puppala came to see plaintiff for the first time after being notified by a mutual friend that the plaintiff was in the ER at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, at which point he asked to view her medical records after displaying his medical identification card 'doctor's badge' and asserting his authority as a doctor on staff with Northwestern. Dr. Puppala was wearing his medical identification card or 'doctor's badge.' (He was given access by the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital even though the plaintiff was not his patient.)" (Parentheses in complaint.)
Dr. Puppala is, or was at the time, a fellow at the Feinberg School of Medicine attached to Northwestern University, which works in conjunction with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chernyakova says in the lawsuit.
It continues: "At or around 4 p.m., on June 13, 2013, Dr. Puppala came down to the ER again and commenced taking pictures of plaintiff while she was on the hospital bed, crying, and attached to an IV.
"Dr. Puppala was seen by hospital security in the hospital taking the pictures and was asked to delete them immediately, which he refused to do.
"Dr. Puppala decided to public said photographs on the Internet through Facebook and Instagram online sharing programs.
"Dr. Puppala attached statements of commentary describing Ms. Chernyakova's condition in those photographs.
"The photographs were recognized as being photographs of the plaintiff by at least four persons (ST, DB, VT and M).
"At all times, while in the hospital, plaintiff did not consent to her pictures being taken by Dr. Puppala, nor was capable of giving any such consent.
"Plaintiff felt violated, as her hospitalization was her private medical matter.
"Plaintiff is a Northwestern graduate with a bright future ahead of her, with potential to someday work for Fortune 500 companies, which may now not occur because of said photographs."
The complaint adds: "Northwestern Memorial Hospital works in conjunction with the Feinberg School of Medicine to allow Dr. Vinaya Puppala to see patients at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in furtherance of his fellowship in the Multidisciplinary Pain Medicine Fellowship program. Northwestern Memorial Hospital is located in Cook County, Illinois," as is the Feinberg School of Medicine.
Chernyakova seeks $1.5 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, for invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, negligence and emotional distress.
She is represented by Joel Brodsky and the Karlin Law Firm.