Apr 162015
 April 16, 2015  Posted by  Breaches, Court

Susy Kelly reports:

A Fayette County woman and her daughter have agreed to accept $30,000 to settle a violation of privacy lawsuit against Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink, according to documents filed in federal court Tuesday.

The Herald-Standard had a lot of coverage of this case, but you need a subscription to read their articles, so the following is my summary based on a quick reading of the public court filings:

The lawsuit, filed in February 2014, alleges that in June, 2012,  the Commissioner breached confidentiality by disseminating information about a report of child abuse to local and state officials and the media:

On or about June 29, 2012, the Plaintiff emailed Fayette County Vince Zapatosky (sic), outlining various instances of child abuse and the manner in which Fayette County Children and Youth Services, upon being notified of the same, failed to take adequate measures to protect the safety of the children involved.

The plaintiff JANE DOE 1 had spoken to the commissioner about her concerns as to how the county CYS was not properly addressing complaints about child abuse. At the commissioner’s request, she sent him an email detailing her concerns. That e-mail contained specifics on her minor child, who she stated had been the victim of repeated physical and sexual abuse.

DOE 1’s email to Zapotosky was forwarded by the commissioner to other commissioners as well as state and local officials so they could set up a meeting to discuss the concerns.

At some point, Commissioner Zimmerlink allegedly forwarded the e-mail, undredacted, to the Herald-Standard and another news outlet. The paper (appropriately, in my opinion) decided not to publish the e-mail.

DOE sued the country, Zimmerlink, and Zapotosky for emotional distress and violation of civil liberties.

Most of the claims in the lawsuit were dismissed with prejudice in June, 2014, but plaintiffs were given leave to amend their complaint with respect to the first count – violation of civil liberties under 42 U.S.C. §1983 & §1988.

Claims involving  Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky and Fayette County were dismissed in October 2014, and only the claims under §1983 against Zimmerlink remained. The case was referred to Alternative Dispute Resolution in January.

This week, there was an apparent agreement to settle the case for $30,000, of which DOE’s attorney will get $10,000. After that and the $400 filing fee for the case, DOE 1 and DOE2 will get $19,600.

The case was 2:14-cv-00196-MRH, DOE 1 et al v. ZIMMERLINK  in  the Western District of Pennsylvania.


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