Even though abuse and especially sexual abuse by employees in a hospital are not a [TS1] common occurrence, it was previously regarded as individual behavior of the employees. The Hospital management was partially blamed for it in some cases but has not been held liable to make compensations to the abused victim/patient. However, recently a State Appeals Court’s ruling on 5th April 2022 has taken a massive step towards changing this.
The Californian Case:
A civil lawsuit filed in California for sexual abuse of two elderly women patients by a mental health worker in the Aurora Vista del Mar psychiatric hospital in Ventura. The mental health worker was found to have a history of sexual misconduct and sexual predator behavior. He also exhibited with the two older women by having sexual intercourse with them when left alone with the women in a room.
This surprising verdict by a state appeals court came from the California case. The court stated that the hospital could be held liable for the sexual harassment that the two women had to face at the hands of their mental health worker. Hence, the hospital is liable to pay a jury’s award of $6.75 million as compensation for the trauma the two patients had to face.
In its findings, the court said that the Aurora Vista del Mar psychiatric hospital was guilty and liable to pay compensation because they hired the mental health worker despite a history of sexual misconduct. Hence, the blame was divided by 35% and 65% between the mental health worker and the hospital’s owner.
The state appeals court reiterated that the employer could be held fully responsible for a sexual abuse case if the workplace conditions promoted it or if there was neglect of providing safe workplace conditions.
Owning a psychiatric hospital doubles the responsibility of creating a safe workplace where the patients are safe, as psychiatric patients, on average, are more vulnerable. The court said that the owner of the hospital and the management are guilty of portraying neglectful behavior, due to which such an incident became possible. Hence, the employer is partially blamed for the accident and liable to pay compensation.
The court ordered a retrial to decide if the hospital should be liable to pay the total damage award amount. We have yet to hear about the response from the Aurora Vista del Mar hospital and its owner, Signature Healthcare, regarding this verdict.
Implications of the verdict:
Such verdicts are uncommon and seem like a step in the right direction. In the past cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, employers were held responsible; they were not held liable to pay for the damages. “A verdict like this will make the employers and the workplace management more conscious of how they operate and put into effect better workplace harassment policies and working conditions to prevent such incidents in the workplace. This verdict means that the employers will be blamed for the sexual abuse within their workspace, held accountable, and made to pay the damages,” says personal injury attorney Nicholas Stamatis of Price Benowitz Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP.
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