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October 21st, 2015

Mental Health Care Providers & Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in PA & NJ

Can Health Care Centers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey Be Held Liable for Sexual Abuse of a Patient?

Over the past few years, there have been multiple high profile cases of mental health care providers who were arrested and charged with sexually abusing patients. Several cases have resulted in convictions. The unfortunate reality is that sexual abuse and assault occur in mental health care facilities across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Related: Patients’ Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse by Doctors in New Jersey

Mental health patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are often vulnerable, especially when staying at short term or long term care facilities such as residential care facilities or short term mental health treatment care centers. These patients often rely on others for care and support. Some patients suffer from such severe mental health conditions that they are easy targets; others are manipulated into performing sex acts. In many situations, employees and others at the facility, including fellow patients or other workers, will take advantage of the situation and commit sexual abuse or sexual assault.

One of the most common claims in care provider facility lawsuits for sexual abuse is negligent supervision. This applies to both employees and non-employees, such as patients.

Here are two examples which demonstrate the concept of negligent supervision, but in different circumstances.

Negligent Supervision of Employees

At a residential facility in Pennsylvania for those with mental disabilities, employees are often seen spending excessive one on one time with residents in their rooms. The facility has received complaints from family members of residents, but failed to modify its procedures. An employee sexually assaults a mentally disabled resident.

Related: Nursing Home Liability When a Resident Beats/Assaults Another Resident

Here, the residential facility was negligent in supervising its employees, and as a result, a resident was sexually assaulted. Other potential legal claims against the facility include:

  • failure to properly train employees,
  • failure to implement appropriate procedures, and
  • failure to protect residents from reasonably foreseeable acts of abuse.

Negligent Supervision of Patients

A child is taken to a mental health facility in New Jersey for a psychiatric hold. While there, an older child (patient) sexually assaults him. The older child obtained access due to the facility’s negligence in allowing older children to obtain access to younger children for extended periods of time without the presence of employees.

Here, the mental health facility was negligent in supervising patients, which resulted in sexual assault of a young patient.

Claims for Damages

Under both Pennsylvania and New Jersey injury laws, residents and patients often have valid legal claims for damages against medical/mental health facilities for sexual abuse or assault. Common claims for damages include:

  • medical bills,
  • psychological treatment costs,
  • lost wages, if applicable, and
  • pain and suffering.

Legal Help for Sex Abuse at Mental Health Care Facilities – Representation by a Former Sex Crimes Unit Prosecutor

Firm founder Guy D’Andrea is a former sex crimes prosecutor from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He takes great pride in providing the best possible legal representation for victims of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.