Plastic Surgeon May Pay for Sharing Patient's Pics
(CN) - A woman whose plastic surgeon gave her before-and-after photos to a television news reporter may have a case for negligence, a Utah appeals court ruled.
Dr. Renato Saltz performed surgery on Conilyn Judge's breasts and torso in 2006. Two years later, a reporter contacted Saltz for a story on how to select a plastic surgeon properly.
Judge was happy with the results of the surgery so she agreed when Saltz suggested the reporter interview her.
The reporter asked for before-and-after photos of Judge and other patients, which Saltz's office manager provided. Judge's photos did not show her face, but they did depict her naked body from her neck to her thigh.
The office manager told the reporter which photos depicted Judge, and the images appeared on TV and in an online story.
While black bars obscured Judge's breast and pelvis, the reporter identified her by stating, "This is Coni before; this is Coni after."
Judge sued Saltz and his practice for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, false light and publication of private facts. She settled her lawsuit against the news outlet.
A district judge in Salt Lake ruled for Saltz, citing testimony from Judge's ex-husband that had in her lifetime worn a bikini in public. The court said this history prevented her from now claiming "that parts of her body that she had left open to the public eye are now private facts."
The Utah Court of Appeals reversed on June 26, saying summary judgment for the doctor was inappropriate.
Deposition testimony from executives who have worked with Judge, a communication consultant, are relevant to the decision, the court found.
They testified that "Judge's professionalism and good judgment were cast into doubt as a result of the broadcast, that those qualities were important for consultants working for their companies, and that other workers' expressed 'uncertainty and unease' at the prospect of continuing to work with Judge after her photographs had been broadcast," Judge John Pearce wrote for the court.
Judge's work had decreased after the broadcast and she should have a chance to prove in court that the broadcast is to blame for the downturn, according to the ruling.
As for the bikini evidence, the court noted that a man who would take off his shirt at age 20 to play basketball "may swim with his shirt on 30 years later to avoid revealing extra pounds, medical scars and now-regretted tattoos."
Judge similarly "did not lose her ability to argue that whatever parts of her body that bikini revealed were private facts on different days in different contexts," Pearce wrote.
Judge also may be able to dispute Saltz's claim that his distribution of the photos served an "educational purpose," meeting the requirements of the consent form she signed.