Allegations of sexual misconduct are on the rise in many institutions designed to care for the most vulnerable members of society, particularly mental hospitals.
This is not the first incident of sexual misconduct involving patients in a psychiatric hospital to be brought before a district court of appeal, nor will it be the last.
Many male mental health workers have been held responsible for sexual abuse before, although it does not always involve elderly patients as is the case now.
Last Tuesday, Justice Arthur Gilbert of the state appeals court had to preside over a case in which abused hospital patients were awarded hefty damages for suffering sexual abuse by an employee of a psychiatric hospital.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Juan Valencia, a mental health worker at Aurora Vista del Mar, was accused and held responsible for sexual abuse at a Ventura psychiatric hospital by a district court jury.
Furthermore, the victims, who are 65, were two elderly patients who were abused while in the care of the psychiatric hospital. In a landmark ruling, the jury assigned a significant part of the blame to Aurora Vista del Mar, with the judge ruling that the Southern California hospital recklessly and maliciously neglected to provide proper care for the female patients who were abused.
This ruling was of great importance because it showed that psychiatric hospitals can be held responsible for sexual assaults in cases where the perpetrator is one of the employees. An award of $6.75 million was granted as noneconomic damages to the victims.
Both Aurora Vista del Mar and its parent company, Signature Healthcare Services were found to have been guilty on the following grounds:
The defense team representing Aurora and Signature Healthcare took the ruling on the civil lawsuit with the appeals court arguing that:
However, Judge Arthur Gilbert ruled against the appeal and not only became the second district court to show that a hospital can be held accountable for its employees’ sexual crime but also upheld the jury’s entire damage award of $6.75 million to the victims of elder abuse.
The ruling by the second district court, although mainly focusing on sexual abuse by employees, will also have a significant impact on the amount of financial compensation that can be awarded by California law in other circumstances, such as medical malpractice cases.
Have you or your loved one been the victim of abuse at a psychiatric hospital or other health care facility? You need to seek justice and damages for pain and suffering from those who are responsible.
Surviving victims should take the following steps:
When patient care is abused at psychiatric hospitals, those responsible should be held accountable. However, as was shown in the case against Aurora and Valencia, these institutions sometimes do all they can to protect themselves and the offender.
In such cases, the experienced and dedicated personal injury attorneys at Ehline law are ready to fight to the end for the rights of the victims. Call us today at (833) LETS-SUE and we will help you walk away with the damages and compensation you deserve.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.