Monday, July 30, 2012

Paranoia will get you an IME

You don't see a lot of right to privacy cases under the Constitution. When you think of privacy rights, abortion and other family planning cases come to mind. But the Constitution also protects a right to medical privacy. That claim is raised here.

The case is Davidson v. City of Bridgeport, a summary order decided on June 25. Davidson sued the City on a variety of claims, including equal protection, procedural due process, Fourth Amendment, Eighth Amendment as well as state law claims against the psychiatrist. The Second Circuit disposes of those claims quickly.

The primary claim, though, arises from management's decision to send Davidson to an independent medical examination, or an IME, because it believed he was mentally unfit for duty. As Davidson cannot show that the City's decision was arbitrary and outrageous, he cannot sustain his substantive due process claim. He evidently exhibited symptoms of paranoia at a disciplinary hearing, according to the Court of Appeals (Raggi, Chin and Leval). So, even though the personnel rules do not specifically authorize IME's, it doesn't matter. The decision to send Davidson to an IME was not arbitrary, and that kills the privacy claim.

The privacy claim also fails even though the City shared his medical information with the Police Department. Sharing this information was reasonable. "Davidson's privacy interest in personal medical information is diminished to the extent that physical and mental fitness are essential to his work as an armed law enforcement officer." Moreover, this intrusion was relatively limited, as the independent psychiatrist only presented the Department with his findings (and did not share plaintiff's private medical records) and management sent him to the IME after reasonably believing that Davidson might be mentally unfit for duty.

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