A lawsuit had been filed against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a former employee after a patient accused the employee of sexually assaulting her while she recovered from surgery to remove a tumor from her pancreas.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, as the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office continued their investigations into the alleged abuse by former nurse assistant Guillermo Diaz. Charges have not yet been filed.
Attorney Marni Folinsky, of AlderLaw P.C., said her client is seeking damages for emotional distress and future medical treatment, as well as punitive damages from the medical center.
According to a judicial summons filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Folinsky’s client was a patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from April 22 to April 28, 2013. After a nine-hour surgery to remove a tumor from her pancreas on April 22, 2013, she was prescribed “strong, intravenous” pain medications and was in a “very weak, vulnerable position,” according to the document.
At approximately midnight on April 24, 2013, Diaz entered her room without turning on the lights and asked the victim if she wanted a back rub, according to the document. Believing that Diaz was trying to ease her pain, she agreed, but Diaz soon began rubbing her breasts and genitals — although the victim asked him to stop “no less than three different times,” according to the summons.
The victim reported the incident to the hospital in June, but was never interviewed nor notified of the results of the investigation, according to the summons. Folinsky said her client reached out several times, but hospital staffers would only tell her that Diaz had been fired.
“I think that’s pretty outrageous — that you not respond to the victim and give them some kind of explanation for why this happened or at least let her know the circumstances under which he was terminated,” Folinsky said. “She deserves a response and an explanation from them.”
Hospital officials declined to comment, but in a statement, they said the allegations against Diaz are “serious,” and that they are pleased the LAPD is continuing its investigation.
“Cedars-Sinai investigates all allegations or complaints from patients — including those related to the conduct of employees — and takes actions based on our findings,” the statement reads. “As a result of our internal investigations, the employee was fired for violation of several Cedars-Sinai policies, as well as violations of known standards of patient care. Further, based upon our cooperation with the California Department of Public Health, we have been informed that the department has revoked the former employee’s Nurse Assistant Certification.”
Each complaint about the employee was investigated as soon as officials were made aware of them, and they took appropriate action based on their findings, according to the statement. However, hospital officials are “deeply sorry” if any patients feel that they did not receive quality care from the hospital, especially given the seriousness of the allegations, the statement reads.
“We encourage them to contact us directly so that we can work with them to provide whatever assistance is needed,” officials said.
Diaz, who is reportedly in his 50s, could not be reached for comment by deadline.
According to the summons, allegations of abuse may have begun approximately 14 years ago in 2000, when a heart surgery patient reported to Cedars-Sinai that a male employee, described as Diaz, repeatedly sexually assaulted her. In 2004, a Cedars-Sinai employee alleged that Diaz raped her after a holiday party organized by the hospital, according to the document.
Further, in 2008, a patient reported being uncomfortable with how a male nurse assistant, described as Diaz, touched her, and asked that he not be assigned to her, according to the summons. One year later, a female patient accused Diaz of repeatedly sexually assaulting her, and in 2010, another female patient reported that Diaz sexually assaulted her while adjusting her compression stockings, according to the document.
Folinsky said she is not sure if other victims are pursuing damages from Diaz and the hospital.
“An investigation was conducted in each instance, including, where appropriate, reporting the alleged conduct to the police,” hospital officials said in a statement. “In 2013, the employee in question was fired, and with the assistance of the hospital his state license was revoked.”
According to the hospital, no charges have been filed on the earlier complaints. However, Folinsky questioned why it took the hospital so many years to fire Diaz.
“We don’t know why it took so long,” she said.
The hospital is continuing its efforts to track “patterns of complaints” related to employees by linking databases related to employee records, patient complaints and other information, according to the statement.
“It is crucial to note that complaints or allegations are the first step, not the last step, and need to be confirmed through an investigation,” the statement reads. “Based on the findings of Cedars-Sinai’s and LAPD’s investigations of each complaint to date, and the fact that one of the complaints was not made until several years after the incident, it would be speculative to say whether an enhanced system of linked databases would have resulted in different actions by Cedars-Sinai with respect to the employee.”
An LAPD spokesperson declined to comment on the case, and a representative of the district attorney’s office said the case is still under review.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial. It is seeking damages for negligence, negligent supervision, negligent hiring, negligent retention of an unfit employee, dependent adult abuse or neglect, sexual assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and medical malpractice.
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