A psychologist's license has been suspended after he left his laptop with a prostitute. The device contained the personal information of hundreds of his patients, investigators say.
Sunil Kakar, 46, of Gig Harbor, Washington, handed his laptop to a prostitute as a form of collateral in February, hoping that she would wait for him to retrieve money from an ATM, according to The Seattle Times. Instead, the prostitute took the laptop and pawned it. Police eventually recovered the device.
Kakar originally told police that the prostitute had stolen the laptop, which was filled with patient information, from his unlocked car. While Kakar is no longer practicing as a psychologist, could he potentially face civil suits from patients for losing their data?
Unable to Practice While Investigation Continues
According to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Kakar compromised the information of 652 clients when the laptop was taken and eventually pawned by Kakar's prostitute. Because of this loss of sensitive information and unprofessional conduct, Kakar's cannot use his professional license to practice until his case has been closed, the Times reports.
Like lawyers, doctors and psychologists must maintain a code of professional responsibility, and they can face the loss of their licenses as well as various fines for violating that code.
According to the Times, Kakar has a hearing later this month to defend himself against charges that he violated his professional responsibility by leaving his work laptop with his lady friend.
Damage to Kakar's Patients
Despite the damage to Kakar's reputation, his former patients may be far worse off. A DSHS statement detailed that many of Kakar's patients had to "re-disclose events that were unpleasant or traumatic to them," and many patients' eligibility for benefits and health care were delayed due to Kakar's actions, reports the Times.
Kakar's patients could potentially try to sue him for negligent infliction of emotional distress, alleging that his negligence in losing their sensitive information caused trauma by forcing them to re-disclose past incidents to new psychologists. To recover under this theory, patients would need to show that their distress had manifested in physical symptoms such as loss of sleep, headaches, panic attacks, etc.
Patients would also need to prove that Kakar's carelessness in leaving his laptop with the prostitute violated his duty of care to keep patient information safe and confidential.
Let this be a warning to all hooker-seeking psychologists: Leave your laptop at home!
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- Can Doctors Ever Give My Personal Medical Information to Others Without My Permission? (FindLaw)