Published : Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 4:39 AM
Three women filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Huntington Hospital and an obstetrician who works there alleging sexual abuse and harassment while they were patients in his care dating back 18 years.
The suit accuses Dr. Patrick Sutton of inappropriately touching two of the women and making comments of a sexual nature to all three of them. It seeks “compensatory, restitutionary, rescissory, general, consequential, punitive, and/or exemplary damages in an amount to be determined at trial.”
It was filed as a class action claim by the San Francisco-based law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Pennsylvania-based Sauder Schelkopf.
In addition to alleging abuses by Sutton, the lawsuit alleged the hospital bears responsibility.
“The lawsuit further alleges that Huntington Hospital routinely disregarded complaints about Sutton’s behavior, complaints that date back to the 1990s, actively and deliberately concealing Sutton’s sexual abuse and continuing to grant him uncontrolled sexual access to female patients at the hospital, all to protect Huntington Hospital’s reputation and income stream,” attorney Lieff Cabraser said in a written statement.
The legal action comes in the wake of a report by the L.A. Times that revealed Sutton had been accused of misconduct at least five times. He was removed from the hospital’s list of on-call obstetricians for baby deliveries and will now require a chaperone when treating women in the maternity ward four days later, a hospital spokeswoman told the newspaper.
Huntington Hospital administrators were reviewing the complaint, officials told the Times on Wednesday. Attorneys for Sutton did not respond to requests for comment.
The plaintiffs are described in court documents as Jane Doe K.G., Jane Doe B.S. and Jane Doe T.F.
“When I started seeing recent news reports about the doctor’s inappropriate treatment of other patients, I ultimately realized that standing up and speaking out is the only way to bring justice and give power to all the other women who were victimized, while at the same time forcing hospitals to put their patients first and stop harboring and even sheltering sexual predators,” Jane Doe T.F. said in the law firm’s statement.
The lawsuit claims that Huntington hospital failed to take action on numerous complaints against Sutton over the course of decades.
“Instead of taking disciplinary or other action such as terminating Sutton’s employment in response to the myriad complaints against him, Huntington continued to protect Sutton and continually provide him with full access to new and existing patients,” according to Cabraser.
“Dr. Sutton should never have been allowed to continue as an OB-GYN for decades in the face of all the complaints,” Jane Doe K.G. said “The hospital, some administrators, the state medical board, someone, should have stopped him from continuing to sexually harass and abuse his patients. I hope that my role in this case will provide me and other patients with some closure.”
According to the lawsuit, Sutton made numerous lewd comments to Jane Doe K.G. and groped her breasts on one occasion while she was a patient in 1998.
Jane Doe B.S. alleges abuses in 1991. The lawsuit asserts that Sutton made numerous improper comments, touched her breast inappropriately and examined her without wearing gloves.
The allegations involving Jane Doe T.F. stem from 1990 and primarily involve sexual comments. Among the claims, she called Sutton on one occasion to ask if it was OK to take medication for a migraine while pregnant.
Sutton advised her to masturbate instead, “which according to him would stop the migraine,” according to the lawsuit. “He told her to call him and let him know if she was able to achieve orgasm through masturbation. Jane Doe T.F. did not follow his suggestion, nor did she contact him again about the topic.”
Cabraser said Sutton has worked at Huntington Hospital since 1989.