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Sexual Abuse Involving Doctors and Patients

New York City Attorneys Representing Harassment Victims

Patients trust their doctors and other medical staff to behave professionally when interacting with them. However, an alarming recent report has found that 2,400 doctors across the United States have been sanctioned for the sexual abuse of patients. Most of these professionals were able to keep their licenses, despite investigations that substantiated the abuse. As the report shows, most doctor-patient abuse is kept secret, although criminal charges sometimes may be filed. If you were sexually abused by your doctor, you can file a civil lawsuit for compensation. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment lawyers can compassionately counsel patients who have suffered from this type of harm, exploring their options and advising them on their rights. We have litigated several cases of sexual abuse by doctors and medical staff.

Establishing Liability for Sexual Abuse by a Doctor, Dentist or Other Medical Professional

If a doctor, dentist or other medical professional sexually assaulted you, you may be able to sue for intentional torts such as assault and battery even if no criminal charges were filed, or the doctor was acquitted. In criminal cases, the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a much higher standard of proof than what is used in civil cases.

Civil assault occurs when someone intentionally puts someone else in fear or apprehension of a physical touching. The physical touching does not need to actually occur. Civil battery occurs when someone intentionally touches someone else, thereby causing harm. You may also be able to bring a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. This happens if someone’s extreme and outrageous behavior causes severe emotional distress, bodily harm, or mental trauma. The defendant must have acted intentionally or recklessly. While there need not be bodily harm to support an IIED claim, in many cases of sexual abuse there is bodily harm, and a successful plaintiff can potentially recover compensation for both physical and emotional harm.

In some cases, you may be able to hold the doctor's employer responsible for its negligence with regard to an employee doctor. For example, a claim for negligent hiring may arise if an employer places an employee in a position to cause a foreseeable injury that the victim probably would have been able to avoid had the employer used reasonable care in supervising the employee. It is essential that the employer knew or should have known that the employee had a propensity for the actions that caused harm to the victim. You may be able to hold a medical practice responsible for negligent hiring if you can show that the doctor who harmed you has a history of licensing violations or sexual abuse complaints filed against him or her, but the practice hired the doctor anyway.

Similarly, you may have a claim for negligent retention if the practice failed to discipline or terminate a doctor about whom complaints of sexual abuse had previously been lodged while the doctor was employed by the practice.

Both compensatory and punitive damages may be available in sexual abuse cases involving doctors and patients. Punitive damages are generally available to deter similar conduct and punish the defendant in cases when a defendant has intentionally and maliciously caused harm. In deciding whether to award punitive damages, a jury will consider the nature of the defendant's actions, the harm the defendant caused, and the amount of damages that would be necessary to punish the defendant relative to the defendant’s wealth.

Moreover, the New York City Human Rights Law makes it unlawful “[t]o refuse, withhold from or deny to any person the full and equal enjoyment, on equal terms and conditions, of any of the accommodations, advantages, services, facilities or privileges of the place or provider of public accommodation because of such person’s actual or perceived … gender…” In other words, it is illegal for a doctor to offer services to patients of one gender in such a way that the patients of that gender do not receive “the full and equal enjoyment” of those benefits on “equal terms and conditions” as patients of the other gender. When a doctor sexually abuses a patient, he or she has failed to offer the full and equal enjoyment of his or her services on equal terms and conditions as he or she offers to patients of the other gender.

Consult a Sexual Abuse Lawyer in New York City

If you have suffered from sexual abuse by a doctor and are seeking to assert your rights, you will need the help of an experienced New York City sexual abuse attorney on your side. At Phillips & Associates, we offer knowledgeable representation for victims of sexual harassment throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Long Island and Westchester. We also are available for employees across the five boroughs of New York City who need a wrongful termination attorney or assistance with protecting their workplace rights in other situations. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or contact us through our online form to set up a free appointment.

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