A Suffolk Superior Court judge will decide whether to dismiss a lawsuit against Children’s Hospital Boston, after hearing arguments this week on the suit filed on behalf of 11 people who say they were abused by pediatrician Melvin Levine, when he worked in North Carolina.
Levine, who has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of children during medical treatments, had been an esteemed doctor at Children’s and later became a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill. He committed suicide last February. A class action suit had been filed against him at the time, but Levine had never faced criminal charges stemming from the allegations.
The Boston lawsuit contends that Children’s Hospital could have prevented the abuses alleged in North Carolina if it had reported earlier complaints made about the doctor.
The Boston Globe reports that attorneys for Children’s Hospital argued in Court that the hospital had no duty to report complaints to institutions that employed Levine after he left Boston.
“There is simply no duty under Massachusetts law between Children’s Hospital and these North Carolina plaintiffs,” said Gail Ryan, an attorney for the hospital.
The lawsuit, she continued, could set a bad precedent.
“We’re talking about fundamental notions of the meaning of negligence,” the Globe quoted Ryan as saying. “[The lawsuit] would open up this court to any out-of-state litigant who wanted to come back in here and file a suit against any former employer for potential acts of their former employees years down the road.”
But Mark Itzkowitz, an attorney for the North Carolina plaintiffs, told the Globe that the hospital had received complaints about the doctor as early as 1967, and should have suspected that potential abuses could occur at other hospitals.
“The public is reliant on the medical community to police its own physicians,” Itzkowitz said.
Judge Merita Hopkins did not specify when she will make a decision on whether the suit can go forward.