Sexual Assault at Los Angeles Hospital Results in $1.5M Verdict
Submitted by Los Angeles, CA Injury Attorney Stephen Sweat
Summary of the case - On March 7, 2016, a Los Angeles County jury ruled that a hospital was responsible after a physical therapy assistant sexually assaulted a patient and awarded the female victim, 68, more than $1.5 million. The hospital insisted that they were not negligent. The jury determined that the hospital was 65 percent liable while the assistant was 35 percent responsible. The trial lasted for 10 days, and the jury took just one day to deliberate, returning a verdict of 10 to 2 in favor of the plaintiff.
A breakdown of financial damages includes medical awards totaling $67,750 for therapy and emotional distress, specifically PTSD, for a total of $1.5 million.
In 2011, the victim attended physical therapy at the hospital. She filed a police report of a sexual assault. Although the authorities investigated the incident, they did not arrest the therapist in question. The plaintiff further claimed that the male therapist attacked her at the hospital and thus felt that the hospital was liable for his actions. She elaborated that during therapy in a private room, he intentionally fondled her genitals. The hospital recorded a separate complaint when he inappropriately touched a female patient with her clothes on.
However, the defendant countered that he simply grazed her groin during a massage, which was not intentional at all. The hospital insisted that the victim’s story was not consistent and had changed at least five times. They further claimed that the previous incident did not involve sexual contact.
The Rights of a Patient at the Hospital
Patients enter a hospital at a vulnerable time in their lives, expecting to receive competent care for their needs. They deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and professionalism. However, a patient can suffer sexual attacks from the medical community, the very people who are supposed to protect them. When a patient is undressed, sedated and limited physically, he or she might not be able to withstand an attack. This environment can be a breeding ground for a sexual predator. California medical facilities need to exercise the utmost caution when screening, hiring and supervising all medical staff. If they fail to fulfill this reasonable standard of care, they should be held responsible in the event of an assault.
California Laws Regarding Patient Rights
California laws state that if a patient suffers a sexual attack while at a medical facility, the facility can be held accountable if they were negligent in hiring, supervision or even keeping an employee when they knew that he or she initiated a sexual assault. The plaintiff or his or her counsel must prove that the medical facility knew or should have known that the perpetrator was a potential risk to patients.
The CA. Civil Code guarantees freedom from harassment or abuse to patients, and the California Dependent Adult Abuse Act allows a plaintiff to seek compensation for damages and punitive sanctions.
Likewise, many other states have same or similar laws that protect the rights of patients while being cared for in hospitals or other medical or mental facilities. This is to protect persons who are vulnerable to such attacks while suffering from physical or mental illness.
Seek the Informed Advice of a Seasoned Hospital Patient Abuse Lawyer
If you suffered abuse while in a medical facility, you will need to retain counsel with experience in hospital patient abuse. Even if you have witnesses or filed a police report, holding the facility liable after a sexual assault can be challenging. Your attorney will need to investigate the background of the person in question along with possible information that management had about the employee. Your lawyer will need to depose witnesses and examine the policies and procedures of the medical facility. An expert might need to elaborate on different aspects of the case in order to strengthen your position with the court. This requires the services of a skilled attorney who understands the nuances of sexual assault claims in medical facilities.