Sexual Abuse Involving Doctors And Patients

New York City Doctor & Patient Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Representing Harassment Victims in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, & Florida

Patients trust their doctors and other medical staff to behave professionally when interacting with them. However, 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. Most doctor-patient abuse is kept secret, although criminal charges are sometimes filed. If you were sexually abused by your doctor, you can file a civil lawsuit for compensation. At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our lawyers can compassionately counsel patients who have suffered from this type of harm. We can help you explore your options and advise you of your 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 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 a claim, in many cases of sexual abuse, there is bodily harm. A 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. 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 them 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, they have failed to offer the full and equal enjoyment of their services on equal terms and conditions as they offer to patients of the other gender.

Consult a Lawyer

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 attorney on your side. At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law we offer knowledgeable representation for victims of sexual harassment. 

Call us at (866) 229-9441 or contact us through our online form to set up a free appointment.

Sexual Harassment Involving Doctors & Patients

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits sexual harassment in public accommodations. Sexual harassment that is prohibited could consist of threats, intimidation, unwelcome sexual overtures or gestures, derogatory comments or epithets, coercion, or violence. Generally, doctors and the places that employ them are public accommodations and are subject to the New York City Human Rights Law. 

Most people think of physical touching, assault, groping, and sexualized remarks when they think of sexual harassment. A doctor who inappropriately touches, assaults, gropes, or makes sexualized remarks to you may be violating the New York City Human Rights Law. Moreover, sexual harassment can involve not just actions that appear to be driven by sexual desire but also those that involve treating a patient differently from other patients based on gender.

Sexual harassment against a transgender patient is also prohibited. It would likely be considered actionable sexual harassment for your doctor to use anti-gay or anti-lesbian epithets or other sexual epithets against you. No doctor should refuse to treat you based on your sex or harass you while you are having a physical or other examination. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, you are supposed to be permitted to use single-sex facilities, including bathrooms and programs consistent with your gender, regardless of which sex you were assigned at birth, your anatomy, your medical history, your appearance, or the sex indicated on your identification. Your doctor should not make offensive remarks about your gender identification or stop you from using a particular facility because you do not conform to sex stereotypes associated with the sex that you were assigned at birth or that shows on your medical records.

A doctor can be sued individually for sexual harassment under the New York City Human Rights Law. In some cases, it is appropriate for an attorney to bring common law causes of action against the doctor. Causes of action that could be appropriate include assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. Any doctor who aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces another doctor to perpetrate sexual harassment may also be liable under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Additionally, a doctor's employer may be vicariously or directly liable for damages based on a doctor's sexual harassment of a patient. Under the New York City Human Rights Law at section 8-107 (13) (a), an employer can be liable for an unlawful discriminatory practice based on its employee or agent's conduct if it violates provisions against gender discrimination in public accommodations. In one case involving sexual harassment by a doctor, the court rejected the employer's argument that under case law related to respondeat superior (which applies to common law claims), employers are not responsible for the intentional torts of their employees.

If you believe that your doctor has sexually harassed you, you can report the doctor to the state medical board. When the harassment involves violence, such as assault or battery, you should also file a report with the police. In some cases, these reports proceed to criminal prosecution, but even if your case does not proceed in this manner, you can pursue civil remedies. You can report sexual harassment by a doctor to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which has the power to impose civil penalties.

You may also wish to consult an attorney about pursuing a civil lawsuit against the doctor, as well as possibly the medical practice or hospital where the doctor works. Relief that may be available through a civil lawsuit alleging sexual harassment includes punitive damages and injunctive relief. Injunctive relief could involve an order that the doctor undergo sexual harassment training, that the doctor refrain from any further inappropriate conduct, or that the employer institute a stronger anti-sexual harassment policy.

Discuss Your Options with a Lawyer

At Phillips & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our experienced attorneys help clients with many different kinds of sexual harassment lawsuits, including claims based on sexual harassment involving doctors and patients. 

Contact us at (866) 229-9441 to discuss your case.

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