Both the U.S. Justice Department and radio shock jock Howard Stern are separately asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by a taxpayer who alleges her privacy was compromised when an IRS employee inadvertently shared private information of hers over the air.
Massachusetts woman Judith Barrigas’ May 19, 2015, conversation with IRS employee Jimmy Forsythe was broadcast on Mr. Stern’s radio program after Mr. Stern took Mr. Forsythe off hold, only to find he was engaged in a phone conversation with Ms. Barrigas, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Rather than dumping the call, however, Mr. Stern listened in and cracked jokes for the next few minutes, all the while listeners to the Sirius XM broadcast were made privy to the IRS phone call.
Ms. Barrigas’ telephone number, 2014 refund and past liability were mentioned during the call, MassLive.com reported.
In her court filing, Ms. Barrigas claims she immediately started received a barrage of text messages and phone calls, many of a “harassing nature,” leaving her “in a frantic, high anxiety state,” MassLive reported.
Ms. Barrigas filed her lawsuit in federal court in Massachusetts in February. The IRS and Mr. Stern are seeking to toss the case on various jurisdictional and statutory grounds, THR reported.
While the Justice Department claims the IRS is immune from liability due to an exception in the Federal Tort Claims Act, Mr. Stern is essentially arguing he had no positive obligation to safeguard Ms. Barrigas’ privacy during the incident and that he did not really harm the plaintiff at any rate.
“[T]he plaintiff has not alleged facts supporting a claim of severe emotional distress, as the Supreme Judicial Court requires, and the Show Defendants did not act with recklessness or intent to hurt the plaintiff — in fact, they did not even know who was on the other side of the call,” reads a court filing by Mr. Stern’s attorneys, THR reported.