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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Clears Doctors|of Indifference

SAN JOSE (CN) - A 14-year-old girl who was sodomized by an emergency room guard cannot sue the three doctors who involuntarily admitted her to the hospital, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

E.G. and her father sued Drs. Gordon Kaplan, Sterling Lewis and Stuart Simon; the guard, Alberto Martinez Maldonado; and Security Code 3 Inc. and Watsonville Community Hospital, in March this year.

E.G. had been taken to the hospital's emergency room in May 2013 because of suicidal thoughts and was involuntarily admitted for a 24-hour hold. While left alone together for more than an hour and a half, Maldonado began to kiss E.G., "inserted his fingers into E.G.'s vagina," and eventually performed oral sex on her without her consent, according to the lawsuit.

The teenager sought to hold the admitting doctors accountable because she claims they knew of her desire to have sex with older men, but took no action to prevent this from happening.

E.G.'s family allegedly told the doctors about the girl's vulnerability to inappropriate sexual conduct with adult males, according to the complaint.

The doctors argued that the information they received at the hospital did not establish that they acted with conscious indifference to the risk that E.G. would have sex with Maldonado or any other hospital staff member.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh found that E.G.'s claims against the doctors fail because she did not differentiate between the doctors and their individual actions, but lumped them into one group.

"Plaintiff makes virtually no effort to allege what role each individual doctor played, what actions each doctor took or did not take, and how each doctor came to know of her heightened vulnerability. In plaintiff's 52-page complaint, the court finds just two instances where all three of the doctors are not lumped together as one. At no other time does plaintiff attempt to distinguish the individual conduct or roles of the doctors, despite mentioning them collectively dozens of times," Koh wrote. (Citations omitted.)

The judge also found that E.G. failed to back up her claims with evidence: that there is no reason to believe that the doctors' alleged failure to train Maldonado resulted in his sexually assaulting a girl, as it is assumed that security guards such as Maldonado know that sexual assault is against the law.

"Plaintiff has advanced no factual support for her repeated allegation that WCH, its doctors included, adhere to an official policy 'of having untrained security guards monitor and supervise mental patients while alone with the patients during the patients' period of involuntary commitment. Nor has plaintiff advanced any factual support for the allegation that the doctors' supposed policy was a 'moving force[]' behind either Maldonado's sexual assault or the doctors' alleged violation of plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights," Koh wrote.

After dismissing all of E.G.'s federal claims, Koh chose not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her state law claims, finding that they are best left to California courts to interpret.

However, Koh gave E.G. leave to amend her federal claims.

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