An investigation by the Los Angeles Times published in August 2019 claims that complaints related to sexual misconduct by California doctors have risen by 62 percent since 2017. California’s state medical board received over 11,000 complaints against surgeons and physicians between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018. That was the highest number in the board’s history. Two hundred eighty (280) of those complaints involved allegations of sexual misconduct.
The #MeToo movement could be a factor in the increase of reports of sexual misconduct against doctors and other professionals. Women sense they are not alone and are not as fearful of speaking out because they can see the support women who do come forward receive from others.
The increase in the number of sexual misconduct allegations in all areas could also be a factor in the increase in accusations against doctors and other health care providers. Whereas someone might not have considered a touch or comment as sexual assault, abuse, or harassment in the past might now pay more attention to these unwanted advances. The publicity that sexual misconduct allegations receive in the media helps to educate the public on what behaviors are considered inappropriate or illegal.
Recent High-Profile Sexual Misconduct Cases in California and Across the Nation
There have been numerous high-profile sexual misconduct cases that originated in California in recent years. The University of Southern California is the site of two very high-profile sexual assault cases that contributed, in part, to the recent changes in California’s statute of limitations for sexual assault cases.
In one case, hundreds of women accused Dr. George Tyndall, a former gynecologist who worked at USC for almost 30 years, of sexual assault. Dr. Tyndall faces numerous criminal charges resulting from the allegations. Civil lawsuits have also been filed against the doctor and the university.
Another USC doctor, Dr. Dennis Kelly, has been accused of sexually abusing gay and bisexual men at the school for years. Dozens of men accuse Dr. Kelly of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault, including unnecessary invasive procedures, fondling, degrading questions, and sexually explicit comments.
One of the highest-profile sexual assault cases against a physician was resolved in 2018 with the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison. Dr. Nassar was accused of sexually abusing and sexually assaulting hundreds of girls during his years as a physician for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics. Nassar pleaded guilty to several counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Are the Organizations That Employ Physicians Responsible for Damages Caused by Sexual Assault?
Many victims have raised allegations of negligence or wrongdoing against the University of Southern California, USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the US Olympic Committee. They claim that organizations like these allow sexual predators to continue to abuse children and young adults by covering up allegations of abuse or turning a blind eye to the abuse. Victims claim that their allegations of abuse are often denied, ignored, or otherwise dismissed for various reasons.
Sadly, it is a story that is too common when dealing with sexual abuse and sexual assault charges against doctors and other individuals entrusted to provide health care services, including massage therapists, psychologists, nursing home employees, physical therapists, dentists, and chiropractors.
Unfortunately, many of the instances of sexual assault in a medical setting go unreported. Victims may feel embarrassed about what happened to them, or they may feel unsure about what they should do. Many of the institutions that employee sexual offenders do not help the matter. They often make it difficult for victims to report instances of sexual abuse or they discourage victims from contacting law enforcement agencies after they learn about the allegations of abuse.
Victims of sexual abuse by physicians and other health care providers deserve justice. They deserve to be heard. The organizations that cover up allegations of sexual misconduct by employees or ignore the allegations should be held accountable with the perpetrator of the abuse.
An organization could be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit if it was negligent or committed wrongdoing associated with the sexual abuse. Examples of negligence and wrongdoing that might lead to a personal injury claim against an organization include, but are not limited to:
- Failing to conduct adequate background checks for employees;
- Ignoring allegations of sexual abuse or wrongdoing;
- Concealing or hiding allegations of sexual assault or abuse;
- Failing to conduct a reasonable investigation into allegations of sexual assault;
- Failing to report sexual abuse of minors to authorities;
- Failing to have a procedure in place to handle sexual abuse allegations and/or failing to train employees on policies regarding sexual abuse allegations;
- Negligent security and safety measures;
- Negligent supervision of employees and staff members; and,
- Failing to intervene when abuse is evident or should have been evident.
A lawsuit against the doctor and the organization that employees the doctor could result in compensation for victims. While a monetary award cannot undo the terrible wrongs committed, it can help victims find some measure of justice and help cover the financial losses and expenses incurred because of the sexual abuse.
What Can You Do If a Physician Sexually Abuses You?
Report sexual abuse to law enforcement agencies and the medical facility or organization employing the physician immediately. If the medical facility or organization attempts to discourage you from reporting the incident, make careful notes about what is said to you and who said it. Seek medical attention. If necessary, request a rape kit or other forensic measures be used to collect evidence during the examination.
When you are ready, contact our office to discuss your case with a California sexual abuse attorney. During a confidential case review, we explain your legal rights and your options for filing a claim against the physician and the organization that employed the physician, seeking compensation for your injuries and damages. Because time is limited, it is important to contact a sexual assault attorney in California as soon as possible.
The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office Are Available When You Need a Trusted Legal Advocate
To discuss your situation with one of our California sexual assault attorneys, please contact our office to schedule a free consultation by calling 1-650-513-6111.