Alameda Doctor Accused of Sexual Assault: What’s the Employer’s Responsibility?

hospital symbol.jpgAn Alameda doctor is being charged with sexual battery after one of his patients reported that he had touched her inappropriately during a medical examination at an Alameda Medical clinic, AIA Health Services. The doctor had been working for the clinic for the past six years. The police indicate that other complaints may have been made against the doctor.

As an Alameda person injury litigation lawyer, I have seen the devastating effects that sexual attacks can have on their victims. I have represented individuals who like this Alameda woman have been sexually molested during routine medical examinations. It has always bothered me that the law protects employers of medical personnel who assault patients and are not held civilly liable for these attacks.

Normally, an employer is legally responsible for the personal injuries caused by their employees in the course and scope of their employment. But long ago, the California courts decided that it would not hold hospitals and other employers responsible for intentional sexual attacks by their employees even if done while performing hospital business. In Lisa M v Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, the California Supreme court held that a hospital was not liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for an ultra sound technician’s sexual assault of a patient done during a routine examination.

From a public policy point of view, I feel these cases which absolve the employer from responsibility are wrongly decided. Who hires these individuals who commit sexual attacks? Who has the resources to investigate the employee’s background? Who can monitor the individual’s behavior? Who can best compensate the victim for the tremendous emotional harm done to the patient? The employer has the ability to do all of this, while the unfortunate patient can do none of this and puts all of her trust into her doctor’s hands when she enters the examination room.

Resource:

Oakland Tribune, Alameda: Doctor accused of sexual battery, January 11, 2011

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