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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Former Employer Not on Hook for Alleged Abuse

(CN) - Families of children who claim their pediatrician sexually abused them cannot hold his former employer liable, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled.

Melvin Levine was a pediatric physician at Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston from 1966 to 1985.

Levine relocated to North Carolina and worked as a pediatrician at North Carolina School of Medicine (UNC).

However, he surrendered his license amid allegations that he performed medically unnecessary genital examinations of his patients.

Eleven of his former patients sued the Boston hospital, alleging that it failed to properly train, supervise and discipline Levine.

The plaintiffs alleged that Levine engaged in the same behavior in Boston, claiming that a mother complained that Levine sexually abused her son during an examination in 1967.

Continuing to allege this pattern of behavior, the plaintiffs also cited a federal lawsuit against Levine filed in 1988, a complaint to the Board of Registration in Medicine in 1993, and four lawsuits filed against the hospital from 2005 to 2011.

The hospital moved to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that it did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs because the conduct allegedly took place when Levine was no longer its employee.

The trial court agreed to dismiss the case, stating that an employer should not be exposed to liability by former employees around the country.

The plaintiffs took the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which also ruled in the hospital's favor in an Oct. 1 ruling written by Justice Robert J. Cordy.

"We have never recognized or imposed a duty of reasonable care to his minor patients to prevent the future behavior of a former employee," he wrote, "with respect to unknown customers and clients of unknown future employers."

Cordy noted that the plaintiffs did not allege that Children's Hospital had misrepresented Levine's employment history to UNC.

"The plaintiffs had virtually no relationship with or connection to Children's Hospital," Cordy wrote. "There are significant gaps both temporally and geographically between Levine's employment at Children's Hospital and the alleged abuse at UNC."

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