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Sexual Abuse by Doctors in Hospitals, Universities and Medical Programs

Revelations of widespread and pervasive sexual misconduct by Dr. Reginald Archibald, a researcher and pediatric endocrinologist at Rockefeller University Hospital, have drawn national attention to the issue of sexual abuse by doctors and the role of the institutions that employ, monitor, and supervise medical professionals. When doctors sexually abuse patients, they take advantage of a particularly vulnerable and trusting population, which is often why the abuse is unreported and persists for long periods of time. When sexual abuse occurs in hospitals, universities, and other medical care facilities, these institutions have failed to fulfill the duty to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients.

Stuart Copperman, a former Long Island, New York pediatrician had his medical license revoked in December 2000. Former patients have testified that they were molested during Copperman’s examinations, touching their genitals. The state panel concluded that Mr. Copperman’s conduct was unprofessional and grossly negligent, and that touching a woman’s genitals is never appropriate during a physical exam. Now, former patients are planning to file civil suits against him for the sexual abuse they endured.

Attention: New York and New Jersey Law Provides Additional Time for Sexual Abuse Survivors to Bring Action

Legal Theories of Liability of Hospitals, Medical Programs and Doctors

The civil lawsuits alleging abuse by Dr. Archibald also name Rockefeller University Hospital as a defendant on account of the University’s failure to take corrective action against its employee. The lawsuit claims that the University had knowledge of the abuse, remained silent regarding Dr. Archibald’s actions, and essentially permitted Dr. Archibald to continue abusing thousands of patients over the course of several decades. Rockefeller University Hospital can be held directly responsible for the actions of its employee, which inflicted substantial harm on the hospital’s patients.

As the hospital or university is responsible for supervising its employees, it is presumed that it knew or should have known about misconduct by its employees and should have taken steps to prevent future incidents of abuse. A hospital or medical facility has a duty of care to protect its patients, and this duty may be heightened when the institution was aware that abuse might occur or contributed to the foreseeable risk of abusive conduct.

Prior Knowledge of Sexual Misconduct

In many cases alleging sexual misconduct at large institutions, there is evidence that various levels of administrators, supervisors, and other personnel within the institution were aware of the abuse or took part in concealing the predatory actions of the employee. The institution itself is frequently in a position to obtain knowledge about its employee’s abusive activities. Failure to protect patients under these circumstances may be a decisive factor in determining liability for medical institutions, hospitals, and university medical facilities.

Reports of Sexual Abuse in Medical Centers Across the Country

Class actions lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct by doctors have been filed in hospitals and universities across the United States, including class actions against a campus gynecologist at the University of Southern California and an obstetrician at Columbia University Medical Center. Several class action lawsuits have been filed by former wrestlers against Ohio State University claiming that the team physician sexually abused them during the 1980s and 1990s. In all these cases, the institutions failed to exercise the level of care and vigilance required when patients are placed in vulnerable predicaments, such as a child or teenager who must disrobe in a private and unsupervised physician’s office, or when the institution was previously made aware or placed on notice about the employee’s conduct.

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled all types of negligence cases for more than three decades. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual misconduct by a doctor or medical professional, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry.

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