A Nokesville woman who had her Social Security number stolen from the billing department at the Prince William County Hospital has filed over $60 million in lawsuits against the hospital, a temp agency and several credit companies.
Suzanne Sloane was the victim of identity theft in August 2003, when Shovana Sloan stole her Social Security number from hospital billing records and used it to open fraudulent credit accounts.
Sloane had left her Social Security number with the hospital months before, when she’d been a patient preparing to give birth to her second son.
“When people think of identity theft, they think about a waiter stealing a credit card number, or online shopping. Not the hospital,” said John Sloane, Suzanne’s husband.
The lawsuit against the hospital centers on the fact that Shovana Sloan was a convicted identity thief before she was hired to work in the hospital’s billing department.
The $12.35 million lawsuit against the hospital alleges that the hospital was negligent in allowing Shovana Sloan near sensitive billing information.
As a result of the identity theft, the Sloanes’ credit ratings have plummeted, and the family has gone through extensive strife trying to repair their credit history.
“None of the forgoing damages and injuries would have occurred if (the hospital) had simply performed a basic background check on Shovana Sloan before placing her in a position of trust where she could obtain easy access to all of Suzanne Sloane’s personal and financial information,” the suit says.
In a written response to the lawsuit filed in Prince William County Circuit Court, the hospital refuted Sloane’s claims, acknowledging only that Suzanne Sloane had been a patient at the hospital in June 2003.
“(Suzanne Sloane) has failed to mitigate her damages and is not entitled to the damages sought…” the hospital’s response says.
Hospital spokeswoman Donna Ballou would not comment on the lawsuit or the circumstances surrounding it.
The hospital’s response also asserts that it’s not responsible for the failure to background check Shovana Sloan.
Part of the hospital’s written response asserts that if it is found liable, it can seek funds from the temp agency that sent Sloan to the hospital.
Shovana had been placed in accounts receivable at the hospital through a company called NRI Staffing, which places temporary workers at area businesses for accounting, healthcare, legal and office positions.
After working at the hospital through NRI for several months, Sloan was offered a permanent position by the hospital, the lawsuit says.
After she accepted, a subsequent background check by the hospital revealed her criminal record and she was fired, the suit says.
Ballou was quoted in a March 2004 article in the Potomac News saying that Shovana Sloan was a hospital employee in September and October 2003.
No trial date has yet been set for the case.
NRI President Robb Mulberger said the company performs background checks on each temporary worker it places at area businesses, but doesn’t look into criminal records unless asked by a client.
“More and more that request is made today, in this day of identity theft issues,” Mulberger said.
Mulberger said the Prince William County Hospital still contracts workers through NRI, though it now requires criminal background checks.
“It’s in place now and it wasn’t before,” Mulberger said of the request to do criminal background checks on hospital workers.
At the time of Shovana Sloane’s arrest, NRI typically placed between five and 10 employees at the Prince William County Hospital.
“It’s probably more like three to five these days,” Mulberger said.
The Sloanes are also suing NRI Staffing. The $3.35 million federal lawsuit says NRI should have discovered Sloane’s criminal background before placing her in proximity to billing records at the Prince William County Hospital.
When she went to work for NRI, Shovana Sloan had recently been released from prison.
The Sloane’s lawsuit against NRI says the company should have noticed when Shovana indicated on her job application that she was a convicted felon.
Her hiring seems to contradict the company’s stated background policies.
Though they don’t always do a criminal background check, NRI takes note of long gaps in an applicant’s employment history, Mulberger said.
“We always do a background check and form of reference check, talking to former employers and verifying information the candidates have given us,” he said.
When asked how Sloan survived this vetting process when she came to work at NRI, Mulberger said, “I believe the person in question had worked for us previously and had relatively good feedback. That’s my understanding.”
NRI had filed a request that the case be dismissed, but a federal judge denied that motion. No trial date has yet been set, but the Sloanes wrote on their Web site at pwcountyhospital.com that they expect a trial in June.
The Sloanes are also suing three companies that compile credit reports, as well as one creditor who sold debt incurred by Shovana to a collection agency.
TransUnion, Equifax Information Services and Experian Information Solutions compile credit reports on people and provide them to lenders.
When they discovered that they had been the victims of identity theft, the Sloanes reported the crimes to the credit reporting companies.
Their lawsuit says the three companies continued to show debts incurred by the identity thief on the Sloanes’ credit report.
The suit also says the companies lack a mechanism to repair the damage done by identity theft to a person’s credit report.
The suit seeks a total of about $31 million from the credit reporting companies.
The three companies have each filed written responses to the lawsuit, denying the allegations. No trial date has yet been set.
The federal lawsuit against the credit reporting companies also seeks about $13 million from CitiFinancial Inc.
The suit says CitiFinancial passed one of the accounts Shovana Sloan had opened to debt collection agencies, which then harassed the Sloane family for money that Shovana Sloan had spent.
CitiFinancial has denied the allegation in court filings.
The Sloanes said that litigation wasn’t their first choice, but that it seemed to be the only way they could clear their credit history of the damage done by the identity theft.
They tried for a year to work with the companies to fix the credit reports before resorting to suing, they said.
“I just want my credit history cleared,” Suzanne Sloane said.