Dr. White Coat on the pink-panties case

The Emergency Physicians Monthly columnist, often linked in this space, on a case noted in our open thread last week:

From comments at Overlawyered.com …

Employee of a surgicenter goes to facility for a colonoscopy. When he wakes up, he was wearing pink underwear. As a result, he suffered extreme emotional distress, humiliation, loss of wages and loss of earning capacity. He is now suing.

While I probably would have laughed off a prank like this, I can understand why some people would have been upset. But suffering a loss of earning capacity from being dressed in pink panties as a prank? I’d like to see how that happened.


  • Fairly sure the loss of earning capacity is because he worked there.

  • If they were the wrong brand it could have been a violation of his pink panty wearing contract. See for instance major league sports stars and their shoe endorsement deals.

  • I don’t know how one would demonstrate loss of earning capacity, but one of the linked articles notes that in order to collect any damages he will have to show this, so I assume it was a claim he has to make in order to file the suit at all. Perhaps he missed some work afterward that he attributes to this, to embarrassment or harassment or some such, since he was an employee there. (His employer better hope there are not other incidents of coworkers dumping on him that come to light).

    As one of the attorneys quoted in a linked article noted, how did the defendants ever let this get to a lawsuit and out in the press?

    Of course the real issue is a breach of integrity by the medical staff. This was a stupid and unprofessional prank to pull, and yes someone deserves to take a hit for it. The fact that the panties were probably put on in recovery long after the procedure itself was over with is irrelevant. It demonstrates a “these people don’t take their job seriously” kind of vibe, and that is not good for reputation.

    Will people trust themselves or anyone in their family to somebody who clowns around during procedures? One of the defendants has already dissolved its practice, so I guess they have belatedly realized this might not have been so funny after all.

    The staff and organizations involved better hope that the patient does not come up with any condition that could remotely have been detected by a colonoscopy, or that he might come up with some injury that could be attributed to the staff not monitoring him properly while in recovery while he was under anesthesia, because they will have a hard time proving to a jury that they did a thorough, professional job during this one.

  • Sexual harassment, especially to the point where someone touched your genitals, isn’t that funny. Change the gender of the plaintiff and do something…let’s say Reverse Mohawking her happy trail or writing “This End Up” in marker on her ass…and you can see that this sort of action to someone under sedation could be terrifyingly humiliating. For some men, the procedure itself is humiliating (let us knock you unconscious and shove a long metal thing up your ass) but the assurance that the doctors and nurses are professionals overrides their fear of humiliation. Waking up in pink panties makes the humiliation real.

    A lot of this does come down to the culture of the employees, if they pranked each other like this before. But, I’m sure the lawyers here know that if the prank victim (literally, in this case) wakes up in the wrong mood, those prior pranks can now become a pattern of harassment.