(CN) - A woman who began a sexual relationship with a university psychiatrist after she stopped seeing him professionally can't pursue a malpractice claim against his employer or the state of Iowa, an appeals panel ruled.
Sonni Giudicessi was a patient at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) Eating Disorder Program three times from 2008 to 2009. She was treated for anorexia, depression and alcohol abuse.
Dr. Sergio Paradiso was one of her psychiatrists, and she talked with him about her sexual relationships and alcohol abuse in one-on-one counseling sessions.
Three months after she was discharged from the program, Giudicessi contacted Paradiso on social media. They met in person twice, but Paradiso then said they should not be seen in public together.
Still, they talked on the phone every day, and after meeting at Paradiso's house, he suggested they could move to Italy and be together.
The couple's sexual relationship lasted from March to June 2010. One month after the tryst ended, Giudicessi's new psychiatrist reported the relationship to UIHC.
During the relationship, Giudicessi still called Paradiso "Doctor" and considered him to be her psychiatrist. Their trysts did not take place on university property, but at Paradiso's home or in hotels.
Giudicessi sued Paradiso, UIHC and the state of Iowa in July 2011 for medical negligence, breach of contract and negligent retention, hiring and supervision.
The trial court refused the state's motion to dismiss the case, finding that Giudicessi presented issues of material fact.
However, a three-judge panel of the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the decision and dismissed the case.
Judge Thomas N. Bower noted that both Giudicessi and Paradiso "knew the relationship was wrong" and tried to keep it a secret.
"There is no evidence in the record showing Paradiso represented to Giudicessi the sexual relationship was a continuation of their prior counseling relationship," Bower wrote. "Paradiso pursued the relationship for his own personal interest and not the interests of UIHC."
The judge stated that while Giudicessi may have thought the couple's two relationships were commingled, the court's job was to determine Paradiso's intent and whether it related to his employment.
"Paradiso's acts were so far removed from his employment duties the state could not be held liable," Bower wrote.