Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Florida Hospital Throws Man's Leg in Garbage; Gets Sued

A man is suing a South Florida hospital after his leg was discovered in the garbage. Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables apparently threw John Timiriasieff's amputated limb into the garbage, complete with tags indicating it belonged to the former patient.

Timiriasieff is suing the hospital for negligent infliction of emotional distress -- let's take a look at his claim.

Emotional Distress

Timiriasieff's claims that, after amputating the right leg below the knee, hospital employees threw the leg into the garbage. Waste management workers found the leg and reported it to the police, who in turn contacted Timiriasieff's family asking if he'd been the victim of foul play. According to Timiriasieff's attorney, hospitals normally incinerate amputated limbs on-site.

The standard elements of an emotional distress claim are extreme and outrageous conduct that causes severe emotional distress. While Timiriasieff may be able to demonstrate that the he was distressed by the nature of the disposal and the contact from authorities, he will also need to show that throwing his leg in the trash wasn't just unreasonable, but extreme and outrageous.

In order to prove emotional distress, Timiriasieff may need to rely on doctor verification of emotional harm and demonstrate the intensity of the mental anguish. Other factors that lend themselves to emotional distress claims in the medical malpractice context like recurring pain or related bodily harm may not be present here.

Release of Private Medical Information

Timiriasieff may also sue the hospital for releasing his private medical information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) controls the privacy of your health information. Under HIPAA, all health care providers must comply with the law and may not release your personal medical information without your permission.

It's likely that Timiriasieff never signed a medical records release form and the fact that he had a leg amputated was made public, at least to waste management and law enforcement personnel.

Given the carelessness of the hospital staff, Doctors Hospital will probably try and settle the claim quietly. If you want to know whether you've been the victim of emotional distress, try our short quiz.

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