(CN) – A lawsuit accusing a hospital worker of secretly recording a conversation in which her co-workers criticized hospital administration is headed to trial. The 7th Circuit said the claims “boil down to a swearing contest and should not have been resolved on summary judgment.”
The federal appeals panel in Chicago overturned a federal judge’s ruling for Iroquois Memorial Hospital, its board of trustees and CEO, and employee Susan Freed, who were accused of violating the Wiretap Act.
The lawsuit had been filed by hospital employees Valerie McCann and Dr. Leslie Lindberg, who claimed their conversation expressing dissatisfaction with hospital CEO Stephen Leurck and the reorganization of the radiology department was recorded by a dictation machine in Lindberg’s office without their knowledge or permission.
The recording was transcribed and ultimately made its way to Leurck and the board of trustees.
Lindberg was disciplined, and McCann was banned from the hospital completely. Leurck allegedly told doctors to stop sending their radiology work to Lindberg.
McCann and Lindberg accused Freed of entering Lindberg’s office, intentionally turning on the dictation machine, and later handing over the transcript to administration.
They claimed the recording had been illegally obtained, disclosed and used against them.
A federal judge granted summary judgment to the hospital defendants after determining that Freed had not turned on the machine, based on inferences from the recording.
But Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner vacated the decision as it applied to Freed and the hospital, saying a trial was necessary to determine if Freed turned on the dictation machine.
“We conclude that the claims against Freed and the hospital boil down to a swearing contest and should not have been resolved on summary judgment,” Rovner wrote.
The court affirmed dismissal of the claims against Leurck and the trustees.