Kaiser Exposed Nurse to Vengeful Stalker, She Claims
DENVER (CN) - Kaiser disclosed the identity of a nurse who reported a co-worker’s misconduct, exposing her to a campaign of retaliatory stalking, she claims in Denver District Court.
Janice Brashier, a Registered Nurse at Kaiser’s Highlands Ranch Medical Center, was fighting breast cancer when she learned that a Call Center employee had violated federal medical privacy law, Brashier says in her complaint. Not long after Brashier reported the misconduct, her house and car were vandalized, beginning the first of two rounds of stalking by the offended employee, according to Brashier’s complaint.
Brashier sued Colorado Permanente Medical Group, P.C. and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado for negligence.
Brashier says that in Feb. 2009, she believed Julie Velvin, a Kaiser Call Center employee, had used her position to access her own son’s electronic medical record, in violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As required by Kaiser policy, Brashier reported the violation, she says.
Although Kaiser’s policy was to maintain the anonymity of staff who reported ethics violations, “Kaiser took no steps to ensure the confidentiality of Ms. Brashier’s identity after she reported Ms. Velvin’s HIPAA policy violation,” the complaint states.
“Upon learning of Ms. Brashier’s identity, Ms. Velvin began a vicious campaign of harassment designed to wreak havoc on Ms. Brashier’s life. Ms. Brashier, however, was unaware of who was engaging in these acts,” it continues.
The harassment began shortly after Velvin was disciplined, when Brashier’s house and car were vandalized with green paint, Brashier says. She reported the vandalism to the police, but the investigation was soon closed because Brashier couldn’t offer any leads, she says.
The following month, “Ms. Brashier began to receive multiple book and magazine club subscriptions, accompanied by bills, none of which she had ordered. In total, Ms. Brashier received approximately 45 subscriptions. Some of the books and magazines were pornographic and vulgar, which Ms. Brashier found particularly offensive as a mother of two daughters,” the complaint states.
The unwanted merchandise included a “Dolly Tea Set,” and bill, Brashier says.
Brashier says that during this first round of stalking, it took her up to 20 hours a week to research and contact the companies who had received orders in her name, some of which threatened to turn her accounts over to collection agencies. During this period, Velvin accessed Brashier’s confidential medical records through Kaiser’s electronic record-keeping system, and began to send her threatening letters which “made vicious references to her cancer and impending death,” the complaint states.
Then the harassment suddenly stopped -- until a year and a half later, after Brashier had remarried and moved. She began to receive threatening letters at her new address, “demonstrating that whoever was sending them had been able to obtain Ms. Brashier’s updated contact information,” the complaint states.
Within days after learning that her cancer had returned, Brashier “started to receive numerous calls from hospice facilities, mortuaries, and crematoriums inquiring about end of life care and funeral pre-planning for herself. Apparently, these service providers had been contacted by someone pretending to be a friend or relative of Ms. Brashier’s and requesting that they reach out to Ms. Brashier in her final days,” it continues.
“Upon inquiry to the service providers, Ms. Brashier learned that the calls from her purported friend or relative had been placed from Ms. Velvin’s extension,” and the mystery unraveled, according to the complaint.
Pending disciplinary action from Kaiser, Velvin quit her job, was criminally charged with theft of medical information and criminal stalking, and pled guilty to the first of those charges, the complaint reports.
But the damage was done, Brashier says. Her “life and routine were dramatically affected by Ms. Velvin’s vicious and targeted actions, which invaded Ms. Brashier’s innate sense of security and changed her from the happy and trusting person she had been,” her complaint states.
Brashier seeks economic and non-economic damages, costs of suit, expert witness fees, pre- and post-judgment interest and a jury trial. She is represented by Bradley A. Levin and Elisabeth L. Owen of Roberts Levin Rosenberg in Denver.