Negligence: Hospital Found Liable for Nursing Assistant’s Sexual Assault

April 1, 2012 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​A Los Angeles jury found a hospital liable for negligence and sexual harassment after a female patient who was recovering from ovarian cyst removal surgery at the facility was sexually assaulted by a nursing assistant who allegedly had also assaulted other patients and staff. The nursing assistant repeatedly came into the plaintiff's room and told her how attractive she was; on one of these visits, he said he needed to check her for bleeding and inserted his fingers into her vagina. The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.36 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages.

During the police investigation of this incident, 10 more women came forward and alleged sexual harassment or assault against the nursing assistant; some of them indicated that they had alerted the hospital of the incidents. Five of the witnesses testified during the trial; testimony included a nursing assistant who was groped and "humped" from behind by the accused and another patient who was digitally penetrated by the nursing assistant. When asked why the nursing assistant wasn't fired after the hospital received a letter from a patient accusing him of putting his fingers into her vagina, a nurse manager allegedly answered "Maybe his fingers slipped." The jury indicated that they awarded the plaintiff higher punitive damages than the $10 million she requested because they believed the hospital could have prevented the assault after other patients and staff members complained about the nursing assistant. The nursing assistant was arrested...

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