Sexual Harassment in a Medical Office
What was the other case you were talking about?
It was a sexual harassment case, involving a medical assistant and a doctor. She was very naïve. She was just 18 years old.
How did she first come to you? Did she call you on the phone?
Her father was familiar with our firm, and when she told him about this, he brought his daughter in to see if they had a case. She was 18 years old, the doctor was in his mid-50s, and they knew each other outside the workplace. They already had a relationship of trust from their church, plus they had a relationship of trust at work. I mean, she’s a medical assistant, he’s a doctor, she has to trust his medical judgment, and he used that trust to manipulate her to do things that she would never have done except for the fact that she was an employee and he was a doctor. She thought that he was looking out for the best medical needs of her, him, and his patients.
So how did you then build the case? You pressed charges against him?
Yes, we sued him and his office. This was private litigation. We sued him civilly for damages that he had inflicted upon her as a result of him using his position to essentially sexually assault her. His defense was that there was medical purpose behind what he was doing. That was his claim. He couldn’t deny what happened, because very shortly after it happened, he had written her a letter, apologizing.
Wasn’t that letter strong evidence of guilt, right there?
It was very powerful. What it meant was, he couldn’t lie about what he did. He tried to spin it and put it in a different light. He tried to, but there was really little doubt what he was referring to in his letter to her.
What other preparation did you have to do, in preparing this lawsuit?
Depositions are a very important part of it, and you ask every conceivable question. In part of the investigation in this case, we investigated all of his employees, and we discovered through depositions that one of his employees had worked for a nurse who had once been a patient of this same doctor, and the nurse had warned this employee, “Don’t ever be alone with this doctor, because he touched me inappropriately. Don’t do it.”
Well, we laid a trap for the defense in this case, assuming that they would never fall for it. There had never been a formal complaint ever made by that former patient, and this employee had never spoken about it to anyone, while she was working there. We were hoping that the defense attorney would ask her on the stand, “Are you aware of any complaints that have been made against this doctor?” She initially said no, but we knew that her own personal experience was that her prior employer had warned her, and so we were able to bring that in. It was a wonderful.
You were only able to bring it in because the prosecution raised the issue? You wouldn’t be able to enter it otherwise?
Right, because we couldn’t find the nurse, and all we had was hearsay. But, because the defense attorney opened the door by asking the question, “Are you aware of any other complaints from any other patients?” and she said, “No I’m not.” Now, on redirect, I get to drive a truck through that question. I simply ask the witness, “Now, remember this question that was asked of you of the defense attorney about whether you were aware of any other complaints. You had indicated that you couldn’t recall any. I want you to think about this question a little more, and think about where you used to work…” And she said, “Ohhh, now I remember.” We got a big objection, but the testimony is allowed in. Of course, it really helped us.
This is in front of a jury. This case took a week.
Ultimately, the verdict was brought by the jury in your favor?
Yes, we also got punitive damages, meaning damages that are designed to punish the defendant. While we were sorry for what the girl endured, we were very happy with the outcome in that case.