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June 4th, 2012

Can a Pennsylvania hospital be held responsible for the sexual abuse of a patient?

Can a Pennsylvania hospital be held responsible for the sexual abuse of a patient?

A: Yes, under Pennsylvania law, a hospital or similar institution, like a medical office or mental health provider, can be held liable for negligence which leads to sexual assault of a patient. In some instances a health care provider may be liable for sex abuse committed by a fellow patient or even an outside third party.

Related: Liability for Physical and Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

In these kinds of cases, an institution can be negligent for:

1. failing to prevent the abuse after having prior knowledge that the employee or fellow patient was inclined to be sexually abusive, or

2. failing to stop the abuse after having reasonable knowledge of the abuse.

The key is whether the institution could have reasonably foreseen that the abuse/assault would occur. Below are two examples which discuss a hospital’s liability for sexual assault of a patient.

Example 1 – Sexual Assault by a Hospital Employee (Doctor, Nurse, Etc.)

A hospital in Pennsylvania employs a doctor/nurse who is known to engage in inappropriate behavior with patients. Rumors abound that the employee is overly affectionate with patients and makes inappropriate sexual comments. Over time, as hospital administrators do nothing, the employee becomes emboldened and begins sexually abusing patients when they are asleep or otherwise incapacitated. He is caught by a fellow employee who reports him. Still the hospital does nothing and fails to file a police report or otherwise report the doctor/nurse to licensing authorities. The employee continues to sexually assault patients. Here, the hospital would be liable because it failed to take appropriate action to protect patients from a reasonably known predator.

Example 2 – Sexual Assault by an Unknown Third Party

A hospital in Philadelphia is located in a neighborhood known for criminal conduct. Over the course of months, there have been a slew of assaults and robberies at the hospital’s parking lot. The hospital fails to take any action, such as hiring a security company, installing lights/cameras, etc. A patient is viciously attacked in the parking lot. Here, the patient may be able to bring a claim against the hospital for failing to take reasonable action to prevent the criminal conduct.

Related: Civil Liability in School Sex Abuse Cases – What Claims are Usually Made?

To submit your case for review by our Pennsylvania sex abuse civil justice lawyers call (866) 641-0806. Our lawyers offer free consultations and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

**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.

Last updated: April 23, 2015