A Tulsa psychiatric facility has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, alleging the employee breached her contract when she stole patient medical records and surveillance tapes, and allegedly leaked them to Buzzfeed.
The Shadow Mountain Behavioral Health Facility, 6262 S. Sheridan Rd., filed suit against the former employee, Dee Ann Paisley, in the District Court of Tulsa County on Nov. 1.
The civil suit alleges Paisley stole Shadow Mountain’s property and harmed patients by allegedly giving the records to Buzzfeed.
Paisley has not yet filed a response to the complaint, and her attorney declined to comment.
Shadow Mountain came under investigation by state and federal authorities in April following a Buzzfeed News story that reported fraudulent Medicaid billing practices, patient abuse and neglect, and violations of state and federal regulations.
Shadow Mountain’s parent company, Universal Health Services (UHS), has called Buzzfeed’s story “faulty” and “misleading.”
UHS was the subject of a year-long investigation by Buzzfeed that presented allegations of patient abuse and neglect, Medicaid fraud, and violations of state and federal regulations on numerous issues.
Videos in Buzzfeed’s investigation showed Shadow Mountain employees physically restraining children, although the patients cannot be identified by their faces. The story also included redacted medical records.
Paisley worked at Shadow Mountain as a patient advocate from Feb. 11, 2013, to April 15, 2016, when she resigned, according to the lawsuit. The former employee regularly made false reports of patient abuse, the suit alleges.
Paisley was allegedly “disgruntled” and made copies of patient records and surveillance video to “get even” with her former employer, the suit states.
The records were protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and were taken without Shadow Mountain’s permission, the lawsuit alleges.
Paisley allegedly notified UHS she had taken the videos. When UHS told Paisley to return the records, she refused and gave them to state officials, the suit alleges.
Paisley also leaked the records to Buzzfeed, according to the lawsuit. When the news site informed the facility they planned the publish the videos, UHS demanded they return the records, the suit states.
The lawsuit alleges Paisley acted maliciously when she provided records to Buzzfeed. The suit states a disgruntled Buzzfeed employee could distribute unredacted copies of the records to third parties, which would violate HIPAA.
Buzzfeed blurred the children’s faces so they could not be identified and redacted records before publishing them.
“The stolen surveillance tapes were either edited or displayed out of context to create an inaccurate depiction of care and treatment rendered at Shadow Mountain,” the suit states.
In response to Buzzfeed’s investigation, UHS in May launched, “Shadow Mountain: The Facts” a site that says it aims to set “the record straight.”
The site, registered under UHS, states incidents cited in news accounts are isolated and misleading.
“Ongoing media stories by BuzzFeed and other outlets regarding regulatory compliance matters at Shadow Mountain provide an incomplete and inaccurate portrayal and we welcome the opportunity to clarify important facts,” the site states.
Buzzfeed News did not respond to The Frontier’s request for comment, but stated in its Shadow Mountain investigation the incidents were not outliers.
“Violence at Shadow Mountain was a regular occurrence, interviews and records show,” the article states.
After Shadow Mountain officials notified patients’ parents records had been taken, lawsuits against the facility followed, according to the suit.
Shadow Mountain and UHS face at least five lawsuits in state and federal court. One of those suits alleges the facility and its employees violated HIPAA by providing records to Buzzfeed.
The civil lawsuit also alleges the facility and its employees intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and that the hospital provided negligent training and supervision to employees.
However, since that lawsuit was filed five months ago, no other action has been taken in the case, according to online court records.
UHS’ suit against Paisley seeks more than $75,000 in actual and punitive damages.
The suit seeks an order or declaratory judgment that Paisley must compensate Shadow Mountain for any lawsuits or other proceedings that stem from her alleged disclosure of facility records.
The lawsuit also aims for an order that Paisley be required to disclose the location of the records or must assist in recovering records or copies of the records.
In a statement to The Frontier, Shadow Mountain said it filed the suit in an effort to “protect the privacy rights” of its patients.
“Prior to the initiation of this lawsuit and before Ms. Paisley released the information, Shadow Mountain requested she return the materials in order to protect our patients’ confidentiality. Ms. Paisley ignored that request,” the statement said.
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