Woman Sues Plastic Surgeon For $23 Million Because He Put Before/After Pictures Of Her On The Web

from the proportionality-means-something dept

A bunch of folks have sent in variations on the following story involving Catherine Manizone, who had a nose job done a few years ago by plastic surgeon Grigoriy Mashkevich, but who is now suing him for $23 million. You might think that the lawsuit is about the nose job gone wrong. But, no, her complaint is that Dr. Mashkevich put “before” and “after” pictures he took of Manizone online as an example of his work. $23 million? New York does have a relatively strong “publicity rights” law — which are state based laws that are being increasingly expanded and abused these days. However, at their core, the idea is that people wouldn’t be put in advertisements or seen as endorsing a product or service without their permission. So, perhaps there’s a small publicity rights claim here, though it would be surprising if Dr. Mashkevich never actually had patients sign a release form for the use of such photos (Update: there is evidence that she signed a form saying the photos were only for her confidential files, so it appears that he did fail to get the proper permission). Of course, even if he failed in that basic step, the idea that having these photos posted online should lead to a $23 million award is just insane.

Equally as ridiculous is the idea that finding these pictures online caused such horrible harm to Manizone and her reputation. In the lawsuit, she explains the “harm” the photos have caused:

Plaintiff has been, is and will continue to be greatly distressed and humiliated, has been, is and will continue to be exposed to public ridicule and contempt; and the plaintiff has been, is and will continue to be greatly injured in her reputation and has been, is and will continue to be otherwise greatly injured.

As Plaintiff’s photographs are still available for viewing on the World Wide Web, Plaintiff’s damages continue to accrue to date and will continue for an undeterminable period of time.

Of course, there are a few issues with this. First, the surgery happened in January of 2011 “to improve her appearance, self esteem and confidence” but she didn’t notice the photos online until February 2013. If she didn’t even know the photos were online for two years how could she possibly have been so greatly distressed by the photos online? If they were really causing her to be “exposed to public ridicule and contempt” then, um, wouldn’t she have examples of that actually happening?

Second, I’m still trying to figure out why she would have been subject to “public ridicule and contempt” merely for getting a nose job. I mean, I guess it’s possible, but wouldn’t people who already knew her simply notice the nose job? And would people who didn’t know her really care at all?

Finally, and most importantly, it seems likely that filing a highly questionable $23 million lawsuit against your plastic surgeon is a hell of a lot more likely to create public ridicule and contempt than any before and after photos of a nose job. So, will she be suing her lawyer next for being “greatly distressed and humiliated” while being “exposed to public ridicule and contempt” for filing this lawsuit? And, of course, if she was concerned that people would know she got a nose job because of the photos, which even she didn’t realize existed for two years, shouldn’t someone have pointed out to her that filing a public lawsuit like this would be a hell of a lot more likely to draw attention to the fact that she got a nose job?

Again, if it really is true that he used her images without signed permission, there may be a minor publicity rights issue, but the claims about public ridicule and contempt, along with the idea that the photos created massive damages, just don’t make any sense. Combined with the insane request for $23 million, the whole thing really feels a lot more like a money grab than a serious complaint.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Woman Sues Plastic Surgeon For $23 Million Because He Put Before/After Pictures Of Her On The Web”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

It's not just about publicity rights...

Because this is a medical procedure performed my a licensed doctor, it’s also a breech of the patient/client confidentiality agreement. That’s a big no no. However, I agree the hyperbolic claims of injury and the amounts requested are insane although this was likely a mix up where the wrong photos were accidentally sent to the web developer so it may be hard to prove that it was intentionally done.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have been, am and will continue to be greatly distressed and humiliated, have been, am and will continue to be exposed to public ridicule and contempt; and I have been, am and will continue to be greatly injured in my reputation and have been, am and will continue to be otherwise greatly injured [as a result of reading and posting on this story].

Now, where’s my $23 million?

Anonymous Coward says:

Slow news day?

Of course it’s an unreasonable money grab? What’s your point? I can sue you for eleventy billion dollars for beaming radio waves into my head, doesn’t mean squat. It might be news if I won, but she’s a long way from that.

We get it, you think government and laws are universally corrupt and unnecessary.

Is there any civil lawsuit for anything that you feel is legitimate and wouldn’t be better handled through social shaming or something like that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“What’s your point?”

Are you new to the internet or something? Why did you come to a blog that talks primarily about internet related lawsuits and laws?

Is this just one stop on your stupid trolling day? What else did you do, go on an Entertainment blog and ask why they are blogging about Kim Kardasian?

Did you comment on an economics blog and ask what’s the point of discussing the bonds market?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Slow news day?”

Slow commenting day? Normal people who see a headline they’re not interested in move on without reading it, or they read the story anyway, roll their eyes and carry on their day. AC commenters here seem unable to ignore a story, and have to make a derogatory comment on every one of them, attacking the site for daring to write something they don’t find interesting… I wonder what the mental affliction that causes this is called.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m actually in support of this woman. The surgeon had no right to use her “before” and “after” photos because, technically, he’s prevented from releasing anything about a patient due to “privacy laws” regarding patients.

Do I think she deserves $23 million dollars? Absolutely not because that’s ridiculous. Such an amount would either be up to either the judge (if there’s no jury) or the jury to determine what amount she’s allowed to.

‘m also going to be shocked if the New York State Medical Board doesn’t revoke his license, suspend him or levy a huge fine for violating patient privacy laws.

Scote (profile) says:

The woman is right - only the amount the doc should pay is in question.

If the woman wanted to people to see what she used to look like she wouldn’t have gotten plastic surgery.

Medical files – including photos – are confidential. Without specific and informed consent to the contrary the doc had no right to post details from her medical files. None.

$23 million is way too high, but that doesn’t make her wrong in principle. Just because the Streisand effect may cause more publicity doesn’t mean she shouldn’t sue. The Streisand effect shouldn’t be a “get-out-of-responsibility-free” card for doctors who violate doctor patient confidentiality.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Re: The woman is right - only the amount the doc should pay is in question.

“Ever heard of the Streisand effect?”

Ever heard of reading a post before replying to it? My post specifically mentions the Streisand effect, and that it shouldn’t be considered a “get out of responsibility free” card.

Yes, the woman may get more publicity over this, but that doesn’t mean the doc should get off free. Streisand wanted to shut down the legal posting of photos taken from a collection of photos meant to keep the public informed about the Californian coastline – which belongs to all Californians – so that people wouldn’t get to see pictures of her coastal house. She demanded something she had no legal right to, and ironically more people learned about her house because of her unreasonable demands.

In this case a doctor posted photos he had no right to post and a woman is suing for compensation. The cases are not the same. And while the Streisand effect may cause more publicity, she has a right to sue and she probably feels that the cat is out of the bag anyway so the extra publicity doesn’t matter. What matters is that the doctor should compensate her. Yes, $23 million is an outrageous amount to demand, but that is a separate issue from her right to sue.

PRMan (profile) says:

Re: How about a "Before and After" Caltholic Confession?

Did he use her name? My pastor has often talked about things people are counseling with him about without naming names. I have no idea who he is talking about and don’t want to know.

In a similar fashion, if he is showing her nose without the rest of her face being recognizable, it’s not that different.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Re: How about a "Before and After" Caltholic Confession?

“Did he use her name? My pastor has often talked about things people are counseling with him about without naming names. “

As if you need a name to ID people from a photo.

And I’d say your pastor may well be in the wrong in talking about counseling sessions. Kind of depends on how specific he is. Just a few vague details could add up enough make it obvious who he’s taking about.

out_of_the_blue says:

"Update: there is evidence that she signed a form"

Ever notice how Mike’s “updates” contain FACTS contrary to his take, that blow it out of the water? This is typical.

SO he’s left with $23 million is too much. May be. Big deal.

This bit is classic UN-self-aware Mike:
“Second, I’m still trying to figure out why she would have been subject to “public ridicule and contempt” merely for getting a nose job. I mean, I guess it’s possible, but wouldn’t people who already knew her simply notice the nose job?”
GOSH, MIKE, maybe by having every frat boy with a blog make fun of her? Sheesh.

The important point here is that Mike runs items that he’s forced to update within an hour or so and blow away his own position! Man, how many times can he get away with sloppy work before the fanboys truly see him? A guy whose schtick is to complain about similar sloppiness and use it to undermine copyright / DMCA / patents and so on?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Updates are a good thing

“Ever notice how Mike’s “updates” contain FACTS contrary to his take, that blow it out of the water? This is typical.”

I think Mike went overboard on this post, however I think his update policies are good. He’s not afraid to post updates to stories, even if they undercut his original take. I don’t always agree with him, but I think his editorial policies are generally pretty good.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: "Update: there is evidence that she signed a form"

I’ve noticed that Mike is unafraid to post the truth, even if it contradicts his original point, or even makes his original take look a bit silly. I’ve never noticed you or any of your trollish brethren even admit fault in the face of overwhelming evidence, let alone admit that a fact that makes you utterly wrong is correct. Usually you double down on your idiocy, weaving a fictional world where the facts you incorrectly assumed were correct are undeniable truth, despite it being obvious to everybody else that they’re anything but. One of the many reasons why you command no respect, and Mike at least some.

RubyPanther says:

Considering that he intentionally, willfully caused her harm for his financial gain, not just without her permission, but in violation of her agreed privacy and in violation of medical privacy…

I would say the amount should be mostly punitive. He probably makes a lot of money based on advertising his services, all of that that used her picture he has no right to.

And I’m very suspicious of people who complain that because she got the surgery to improve her self-esteem that there is some problem with pointing out he harmed it by violating her privacy. The whole idea of a nose job suggests that the patients will be emotionally fragile. And getting the surgery is embarrassing and private and something people normally keep private. So yeah, the doctor harmed her in exactly the area he had helped. In my view that makes it all that much worse, both from a moral view, and also considering the harm done. And he should indeed know better.

My question, how much does this doctor make and is $23m really enough to discourage this behavior? It may turn out to be too high, or too low; I just don’t understand why Mike Masnick has it out for this woman and wants to ridicule her. It doesn’t exactly reduce her complaints. She certainly has every right to protect and control her image. This isn’t a case of an eager litigant, but somebody who has had their personal image misappropriated not only in violation of signed agreements, but in violation of medical privacy. Litigating is her only recourse, and so itself should be no cause for ridicule. I can only assume that Mr. Masnick is ridiculing her because she got plastic surgery. And the only reason Mr. Masnick knows about it, is that this Dr. Mashkevich violated her privacy.

Really, I think Mr. Masnick should delete the story, and replace it with an apology to Catherine Manizone.

illuminaut (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But this story IS about the amount she’s suing over, not about her being right. It’s at best vindictive but most likely pure greed to sue over these kinds of amounts. I understand she isn’t actually getting this kind of money but her lawyer carefully laid out a strategy to maximize a settlement (likely a strategy that maximizes his personal payday but that’s what you get when you team up with a lawyer).

If she really only cared about her pictures not being released she would have asked the doc to take them down and if she really suspects mischief and is afraid of a serial offender she could notify a supervisory board of some kind.

This is the same as someone suing McDonald’s over too hot coffee – yes you may be in the right but the reaction is over the top.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“But this story IS about the amount she’s suing over, not about her being right”

Actually it isn’t. Mike takes issue with the suit itself, not merely the amount.

But, no, her complaint is that Dr. Mashkevich put “before” and “after” pictures he took of Manizone online as an example of his work.

Mike claims that the amount is the final and most important point, but it isn’t. The doctor violated patient confidentiality. And he’s done it before and had to settle a lawsuit. So he knows better. Quibble over the amount, sure, but not whether a doctor should be able to use private medical records to publicize his practice. He did not have permission.

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the same as someone suing McDonald’s over too hot coffee – yes you may be in the right but the reaction is over the top.”

The lawsuit over the hot coffee was only filed after McDonald’s refused to pay her medical bills for skin grafts. The woman got burns down to the bone from the extreme temperature of the coffee.

McDonald’s knew people were being scalded by their coffee but rather than reducing it to a temperature safe to hand people through their driver side windows where at least some would foreseeable spill it, they decided that lawsuits were cheaper. The plaintiffs did not ask for the big verdict, rather the jury decided to fine McDonald s three days worth of coffee profits. Small fines don’t phase corporations and are why McDonald’s didn’t make their coffee safe. The award was later reduced on appeal.

Scote (profile) says:

People misunderstand the Streisand Effect.

Mike coined the Streisand Effect but I think a lot of people misunderstand it.

If someone just wants to keep something under wraps then filing a public law suite, and causing more publicity, can be counter productive. We especially enjoy the Schadenfreude engendered when someone uses **bogus** legal threats that backfire on them them resulting in publicity that is cross purposes to their bogus, anti-free speech threats. That is the Streisand Effect.

However, suing someone for *damages* for violating client patient confidentiality is not the Streisand Effect. Yes, the pictures may get some more publicity, but they are out of the bag due to the doctor’s apparent negligence. That can’t be put back in the bag. So when the purpose of the suit is to hold someone responsible for their negligence then the Streisand Effect is irrelevant.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: People misunderstand the Streisand Effect.

The effect is still there, even if the suit is totally justified. Ultimately, she’s suing over negative publicity, and the result of the lawsuit is to bring even more publicity and attention to the original thing she’s suing to have hidden. Whether she’s doing that for egotistical purposes or for real damage caused, the effect is the same. It’s normally named critically as a dumb thing that people do without considering the consequences, but it’s still applicable here.

Cowards Anonymous says:

Actually, this would more accurately be a HIPPA violation since personally identifiable information (photos of a patients face) as a part of a patient’s medical record (plastic surgery) were released without the patient’s knowledge, permission, or consent. HIPPA violations can carry federal civil and criminal penalties.

See the following link for HIPPA violation penalties:

Even the most severe HIPPA penalty for “offenses committed with the intent to sell, transfer, or use individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain or malicious harm” carries a maximum of $250,000 fine per offense, but it can also result in up to ten years imprisonment.

So yea, this appears to be more of a money grab than an attempt to get justice for a wrong committed.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just very surprised how a person ever think of receiving such amount of money for any case?!!? I just cannot believe it.
If she suffered cause of that, it is her problem! Nobody treated her badly that she finally found out that the reason were those photos in internet… Hope the judge will be wise enough to bang such egoist psychopaths, her and the lawyer!

Anonymous Coward says:

No no no. She should be ashamed from her stinky greediness than her improved version of nose! Go to school and educate yourself first. Hope your nose will grow bigger that you could finally suspect that it was his fault, otherwise nothing he has done wrong than you!!! When I will get my nose done, I can do it public and i will see who is gonna injure me for that. I will see if i am got discriminated. I don’t think so, since it is nose job. Even Hollywood stars, much prettier men and women having them and being accused everyday. I don’t think they sued anyone!

Mandymore (user link) says:

Plastic Surgeons Ethic Code

as a professional and certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Grigoriy Mashkevich should not uploaded his patients medical records like before and after photos because it deals with the patients privacy and rights. however, I think it is not reasonable for the patient to sue the doctor with huge amount of money if it was just caused by uploading her before and after pictures. the wise way to make clear the problem is that the surgeon should apologize to the patient through press conference if he really did upload his patient medical records

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...