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June 8th, 2018

Doctors & Psychologists – Sex Assault & Abuse Lawsuits & Liability of an Employer

Patients who’ve been sexually abused or assaulted by a medical professional like a doctor or mental health professional may have legal rights to seek compensation for pain and suffering caused by the criminal conduct. Employers are often held liable, in addition to the criminal perpetrator. This is also true for sex abuse or assault by other medical providers such as chiropractors, physical/massage therapists, nurses, etc.

Oftentimes, these types of crime victim injury lawsuits involve claims against both the offender and the offender’s employer. That’s because most perpetrators of sexual violence have a history of conduct that escalated over some period of time, whether it’s weeks, months or even years. It’s almost always the case that a doctor or psychologist had multiple victims before getting caught. Therefore, as sex abuse victims’ lawyers, we often find that the employer (or multiple employers) knew about the problem beforehand, but simply failed to take action to prevent the conduct. This is what forms the basis of liability of an employer.

Related News: Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan: Massage Envy Sex Assault Victims Lawsuits Make National News (Nov. 28, 2017)

Why Liability of the Employer Matters in a Sex Abuse or Assault Lawsuit Against a Doctor, Psychologist, Etc.

massage therapist hands on womanIn a sex abuse or assault lawsuit against a medical employee, it’s in the victim’s legal interest to investigate whether the employer can be held liable for three reasons. First, doing so sends a message to the employer which may respond by updating employee conduct protocols and reporting procedures. Second, there’s often a history of conduct, knowledge of which can often be traced to an employer. Third, from a liability standpoint, an employer’s own liability insurance policy often kicks in to provide a source of compensation to the victim. This is important because the perpetrator’s ability to pay a financial judgement may be limited.

Evidence of Negligence or Fault of the Employer

In order to proceed in a case against the employer, there must be some evidence that the employer had notice or knowledge of the problem. Employer records, interviews of employees, colleagues, etc., medical licensing records, and even the perpetrator’s deposition testimony can help prove liability of the employer. In addition, to the extent possible, seeking arrest records in prior states/counties where the perp practiced medicine may help to identify a pattern of conduct and/or other victims.

Notice can be established in two ways: actual notice or constructive. The key in these cases is establishing that the hiring entity (medical office, hospital, etc.) either 1. had actual, prior knowledge of the problem, or 2. should have had knowledge of the problem.

Direct or Actual Knowledge

As discussed briefly above, it’s almost always the case that a doctor or medical professional engaged in a course of conduct with respect to sexual abuse or assault. It usually starts with crossing boundaries and gradually escalating the conduct from there. Co-workers such as other doctors, nurses, staff members, etc., may notice the conduct. In some instances, the offender may be reported by staff or former patients. What an employer does in response (or fails to do) can subject it to liability.

We often find that employers ignore accusations outright or make deliberate attempts to shield their employees from any criminal investigations. This might include persuading someone who reported the conduct to withdraw the report. In some cases, threats may be made. Visit the sex abuse victims’ law library for more info.

Indirect or Constructive Knowledge

An employer has constructive notice of a problem employee where there’s sufficient evidence that the employer should have known about the problem. Did an employer fail to have any procedures in place for reporting such conduct? Were such reports frowned upon internally? Did an employer fail to conduct a sufficient background check?

Financial Recovery in a Sex Abuse or Assault Lawsuit

In a crime victim lawsuit, one of the objectives will be to obtain a financial recovery. That’s reality and the way the civil justice system works. Whether it’s a contract dispute or a personal injury matter, courts right wrongs by awarding monetary compensation to the aggrieved party.

Imagine a contract dispute where one party failed to provide a service to the other. Let’s say an auto mechanic fails to fix a car that they agreed to fix.  No court is going to force the mechanic to fix the car. Instead, the court, if it finds in the car owner’s favor, would require the wrongdoer/mechanic to pay a financial sum, the natural consequences of the failure to fix the car. Here, the law works by requiring the wrongdoer to pay damages to the injured party.

The same principle applies in a sex abuse lawsuit. The victim can request compensation for the damages caused by the conduct, i.e., pain and suffering, and in a successful case may be awarded a financial sum. The perpetrator and/or the employer may be ordered to pay the judgement.

Our Former Prosecutors Now Represent Sex Abuse Victims in Civil Courts

Three lawyers at our firm are former prosecutors who’ve handled sex crimes prosecutions. They now help victims of sex abuse or assault obtain justice in the civil courts. Cases are accepted nationwide. Call for a free consultation at (866) 641-0806 or Click To Call.

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.