Ex-paramedic who mocked patients on Twitter slapped with lawsuit

NEW YORK Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:21pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City paramedic who was forced to resign this year after mocking patients by posting pictures of them on his Twitter account is being sued by a woman who said he uploaded a photograph of her in a wheelchair with a caption that ridiculed her weight.

Timothy Dluhos was a lieutenant in the city's fire department working as an emergency medical technician when the New York Post linked him in March to a Twitter account with the handle "Bad Lieutenant" and an image of Adolf Hitler for a profile picture.

The account, now deleted, contained many posts filled with slurs against black, Jewish, Asian and fat people. One post included a surreptitiously taken photograph of an obese woman in a wheelchair taken from behind and digitally altered to include the words "Wide Load" across the wheelchair's back.

Teena Gamzon, 65, said she is the woman in the photograph, and filed a lawsuit in the Kings County Supreme Court on Monday against Dluhos, saying that the thought of the photo, which was widely republished online, being seen by millions of people had made her physically sick.

She also named the City of New York as a defendant, accusing it of negligence. The suit seeks unspecified damages from both parties.

"I cried the entire day," Gamzon said in a phone interview from her home in Brooklyn, describing the day she first saw the photograph after it was reprinted on the front page of the New York Post. "I was just so upset, it was just devastating."

Gamzon said she has no memory of encountering Dluhos, but could see from the background of the photograph that it had been taken while she spent several months at a physical rehabilitation clinic in Staten Island in 2009 and 2010 following surgery on her leg for complications brought about by her diabetes.

The fire department suspended Dluhos without pay soon after he was linked to the Twitter account, a department spokesman said. Dluhos resigned before the termination proceedings that had begun against him were over, the spokesman said.

Dluhos could not be reached for comment on Thursday, and a message left for him was not returned. A spokeswoman for the city's law department said only that the city had not yet received the lawsuit.

(Editing by Scott Malone and L Gevirtz)

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