PR Disaster Enforcing Gag Orders
Are you really going to enforce that gag order? Go after the victim and claw back settlement dollars?
Those were the questions pondered by the folks at USA Gymnastics this week as their former team doctor, convicted of sexual abuse stretching many years, faced victim impact statements in a Michigan court room. Would USA Gymnastics seek to recoup $100K from Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney for joining the long line of women telling their horrific stories in that court room? Maroney settled for $1.25 million for sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of the team doctor, but that settlement included a $100K fine if she shared her story. Shortly before Christmas, Maroney and her attorneys filed suit, saying the gag order was illegal.
TV personality Chrissy Teigen offered to pay Maroney's $100K fine, and, according to USA Today, USA Gymnastics publicly relented and is now encouraging Maroney to share her story in that Michigan court room.
Wow, what a mess, PR and otherwise.
Would you want this to be your hospital or nursing home? If a patient or family wanted to tell their story, but your attorney had inserted a NDA in the settlement agreement, would you try to enforce it? What would happen to your organization if you tried to enforce a gag order? And does the NDA square with your proclamations about transparency, honesty, doing the right thing, and patient safety is priority #1? If no, why have the gag order in the first place, and is there a better way to settle cases?
So, next week, or next month, or sometime in the near future, your hospital or nursing home will settle a lawsuit. What will the process look like? How will the settlement papers read? Have you actually read or reviewed the settlement documents used by your counsel? Ever...taken...a...look? Now, recently, I have had several defense attorneys inform me that patients and families are the people who are demanding confidentiality. Really? Has anyone asked the patient or family what they want? We have repeatedly encouraged you to ask a simple question of patients and families before anything (including money) in considered: "How do we make this right by you?" Then, shut up and see what they say...
Our recently released gag order report offers many ideas on how to settle cases in a more humane fashion.
Doug Wojcieszak, Founder,