Woman who gouged her eyes in California sues over viral photo

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2014 8:56 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A nurse at a Los Angeles hospital took a photo of a woman who gouged out her own eyes with pencils, and the patient sued the hospital and its administrators after the picture went viral on the Internet, her attorney said on Wednesday.

The plaintiff, who is not named in the lawsuit, was treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in 2012 after she tried to commit suicide by jamming the pencils through her eyes at another facility and was rushed to the hospital, her lawyer, Douglas Johnson, said.

The injury left the woman blind, according to the lawsuit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The as-yet unidentified nurse took the photograph of the patient with the "intact pencils sticking out of her eyes," then shared the unauthorized picture with another person, who passed the image to Joshua Shivers, the lawsuit said.

Shivers, in turn, used his mother's computer to post the image to a "shock" website, the suit stated, adding that the photo has since been viewed more than 192,000 times. The specific website to which it was posted was not disclosed.

"Everybody knows that as soon as someone gets their hands on something like this, it goes viral and the harm is done," said Douglas, who specializes in privacy cases.

Douglas said that before filing the lawsuit against the medical center and Los Angeles County officials who administer the hospital, he asked them to have the picture taken down from the Web by exercising a copyright they hold over photo, since it was taken in their facility.

County spokesman David Sommers said officials are investigating the allegations in the lawsuit, and he declined to comment further.

The lawsuit also names as defendants Joshua Shivers and his mother, Linda. They could not be reached for comment.

The woman who blinded herself has since received psychiatric help, learned to read Braille and "gotten her life back on track" by enrolling in college, but she has fallen into depression since the photo spread online, the lawsuit stated.

The legal action, which accuses the defendants of infliction of emotional distress, unauthorized disclosure of medical information and other complaints, does not specify how much the woman is seeking in damages.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)