Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Counselor denies liability, seeks protective order in client's negligence suit

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jun 27, 2018

A counselor seeks a protective order in an anonymous client’s negligence lawsuit, arguing that the client maintained his anonymity while exposing the full name of another client as well as her daughter in his lawsuit.

John Doe filed his complaint May 4 against Nicole Johns LCSW and Radzom Counseling LLC.

In his complaint, Doe claims Johns, a licensed social worker, was tasked with providing mental health counseling from Oct. 29, 2012, to Jan. 27, 2017, to assist with grief counseling over his marital termination.

Doe claims Johns inappropriately referred to their relationship as a friendship and provided her home address. He also claims she described the plaintiff as “hot” and had to be confronted about openly flirting with Doe.

Doe alleges Johns strongly suggested he attend yoga sessions when she knew or should have known that yoga instructor Jeremy Henkhaus was likely to make unwanted sexual advances and cause further mental stress. Henkhaus is currently named a defendant in a man’s sexual harassment lawsuit, which was also filed by a John Doe.

Johns allegedly suggested Doe succumb to the unwanted advances by Henkhaus, calling his aversion “oversensitive.”

Doe also claims Johns failed to disclose her conflict of interest and misrepresented her relationship with Henkhaus while attempting to counsel Doe regarding the alleged sexual assault.

Johns also allegedly encouraged Doe to address her by the pet name “Sunshine” and stated numerous times that she loved Doe, the suit states.

Johns allegedly failed to maintain proper therapeutic boundaries by speaking about her personal life and family, including her former husbands and daughter.

Doe further claims the defendants failed to confidentially maintain information from his counseling sessions, records and communications, thus violating HIPAA laws.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on June 11 through attorney Karen Vivian-Nathan of the Law Offices of Edward J. Kozel in Chicago.

They argue that Doe’s allegations against them “clearly sound in healing arts malpractice.” However, the plaintiff failed to attach the required certificate of merit from a physician stating there is meritorious cause of action.

“The plaintiff should not be permitted to maintain his instant lawsuit against the defendants where he has failed to comply with the statutory requirement designed to eliminate frivolous lawsuits,” the motion states.

The defendants also argue that the plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a cause of action.

“In the case herein, the plaintiff fails to allege that a duty was owed to him. Although, even so, the majority of his allegations fail to state a cognizable cause of action possibly entitling him to recovery against the defendants,” the motion states.

The defendants argue that the allegations regarding Johns’ relationship with another patient does not support a duty owed to Doe.

The defendants further argue that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding HIPAA issues fail to state a recognized cause of action.

The defendants also filed a protective order on June 11.

“Although the plaintiff sought leave of court to file his lawsuit as a ‘John Doe’ to maintain his own anonymity, his complaint improperly identifies by name another Radzom Counseling client and further inappropriately names Ms. Johns daughter in the complaint.

“While the defendants acknowledge the general right to the public’s access to court pleadings, where there is a compelling interest, access may be restricted,” the motion states.

The defendants argue that Doe inappropriately names non-parties, constituting an invasion of their privacy.

They also argue that Doe violated the patient/therapist privilege and HIPAA by naming another patient.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 18-L-594

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