Dram Shop Liability Law Being Considered in Maryland

March 19, 2013

Dram is a small unit of liquid. Dram shop refers to a bar or tavern where alcoholic beverages are sold. Dram shop liability is when an establishment can be held liable for selling alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons and/or minors, which then cause death or injury to a third party as a result of alcohol-related automobile crashes and other accidents.

Dram shop laws are intended to protect the general public and innocent people from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons. Serving alcohol to minors in the United States is illegal. All 50 states consider it illegal to sell and or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

The argument against dram shop liability is that a person, drunk or sober, should be responsible for his/her own behavior and actions. Also, bar, tavern and restaurants owners believe that if dram shop laws go into effect in Maryland that insurance premiums would rise, prices for customers would rise and therefore some business would have to close. Also, some people argue that there is no way for a bartender to know if a patron had drank somewhere else before or after coming to their business, or had used drugs.

There are other people who suggest that there has to be some accountability for a situation that is created or made worse by the action or inaction of the bar and or tavern.

The Court of Appeals in Maryland has recently heard several arguments in dram shop liability cases and will start considering whether to implement dram shop liability, which would in turn make bars, taverns and restaurants liable for customers involved in drunk-driving cases. But even without dram shop liability in Maryland, there seems to be a growing trend of Maryland cases recognizing tavern liability when there is additional action or inaction by the tavern that contributes to the occurrence or makes the situation worse. If a Dram Shop law does go into effect in Maryland it would go against over 60 years of judicial precedent.

Maryland and Virginia are a few of the states that still do not have any kind of dram shop liability law in affect. Maryland does not currently hold businesses responsible for serving too much alcohol to its patrons. 44 states in the United States and the District of Columbia do have some form of dram shop laws, although they differ in scope and in the evidence required for holding a business responsible for other’s actions.

Conduct and Privacy Allegations Against Dr. Nikita Levy of Johns Hopkins Medical Center

February 26, 2013

Dr. Nikita Levy, a Johns Hopkins Medical Center Gynecologist, committed suicide on Monday, February 18, 2013, after he was confronted with allegations of recording and photographing his patients during exams in his 25 year career. Dr. Levy obtained his medical license in Maryland in 1988 and started working at Johns Hopkins Hospital shortly after. Dr. Levy was contacted by Johns Hopkins on February 4th, 2013, suspended on February 5th and ultimately terminated on February 8, 2013. On February 18, 2013, Dr. Levy’s body was found at his home, in Towson, Maryland, with a plastic bag wrapped around his head and Helium being pumped into it. An apology letter to his wife was also found, near his body.

When Dr. Levy’s home was searched by police, unauthorized photographs and video recordings of patients treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital were found. Multiple computer hard drives filled with images and records, photographic equipment and hidden cameras, such as a pen camera, were found and taken as evidence.

Several lawsuits are now being filed in Maryland on behalf of former patients of Dr. Levy due to these allegations. Hundreds more are expected to be filed in the coming months. Dr. Levy had over 600 former patients whom may have been secretly photographed or recorded.

Baltimore Police have yet to contact the patients identified in the photographs and recordings and have not confirmed whether any of the material was distributed over the internet, therefore; some lawyers of these former patients have submitted a request to the Baltimore Police to release this information.

Johns Hopkins issued a statement, which in part says, “An invasion of patient privacy is intolerable. Words cannot express how deeply sorry we are for every patient whose privacy may have been violated… ” The hospital further says that Dr. Levy’s alleged behavior violates its conduct and privacy rules. The allegations were brought to light by an employee of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, who on February 4th, 2013, noticed something unusual about Dr. Levy’s examination of a patient and so a supervisor was alerted.

Baltimore Police are treating this as a criminal investigation while Johns Hopkins’ board or trustees has opened their own investigation. Hospitals, in the past, have been held liable for failing to protect patients’ privacy and for doctor’s actions, but it depends on whether there is enough evidence to prove negligence. It all depends on whether the women can be identified in the images and what they show. If patients cannot be identified, they cannot really say that they were embarrassed or humiliated.