A faculty member’s spouse who contracted COVID-19 in March has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Abilene city manager for disclosure of private medical records.
The plaintiff traveled to New York City March 4 and returned to Abilene four days later. Shortly after, rumors began circulating about an initial outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff became congested and was tested for the coronavirus, and the test came back positive on March 29.
According to the lawsuit, city manager Robert Hanna communicated “misinformation,” according to the lawsuit that led to media reports that the plaintiff had not self-quarantined after receiving the test results. “Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff and the faculty member began receiving intimidating telephone calls and Facebook messages threatening them with physical harm and/or death,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit claims Hanna continued to make comments about the plaintiff’s condition with threats of legal action.
“I will pursue every legal option available to me to make sure you stay home that could include APD sitting out in front of your house; it could include ankle monitoring so that we know where your location is at all times,” the suit quotes Hanna.
After the faculty member and the plaintiff experienced online threats, the university released a statement on April 1 defending the plaintiff and the faculty member.
“We are not aware of any willful violations of CDC guidelines or Abilene city instructions by our faculty member or their family,” said a university statement. “We ask that you be respectful of their right to privacy and that you keep this member of the ACU community and their family in your prayers during this difficult time.”
In his response to the suit, Hanna denied the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s petition. The plaintiff’s Dallas attorney did not respond to a request for an interview, and Linda Bonnin, ACU senior vice president of marketing and communications, said the university does not comment on pending litigation.
The plaintiff is alleging invasion of privacy by intrusion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander and violation of the state’s health and safety code and is seeking $1 million in damages.