Psych Hospital Held Accountable for Sexual Abuse of Patients

While a legal victory and award of damages cannot take back the horrific experiences of two victims who were sexually abused by employees at a psychiatric hospital, the verdict in a recent case serves as justice. A court ruled on April 5, 2022that the facility could be forced to pay damages in the amounts of $3.75 million and $3 million to the respective victims. The jury found that the mental health hospital was negligent in a number of respects and should be held accountable for sexual abuse.

The defendants intend to appeal and request a new trial related to the amount of damages, but the case still serves as an example of liability issues in sexual assault and abuse claims. Many people do not expect that a hospital could be responsible for the intentional, criminal acts of employees. However, this facility was negligent separately from the abuser’s acts, and it affected quality patient care. Some information about the legal concepts should help you understand the basics.


Hospital Negligence for Sexual Assault 

All Alaska health care facilities, including mental health hospitals, are required to provide quality patient care. The law obviously prohibits intentional attacks and sexual abuse, but the legal duty extends to protecting patients from foreseeable harm. The recent court opinion found that the psychiatric hospital breached the duty of care by:

  • Hiring mental health care workers instead of certified nursing assistants (CNAs), who are subject to licensing requirements;
  • Not enforcing policies on allowing male employees to be alone with females in their rooms;
  • Failing to implement policies prohibiting one-on-one contact between male employees and female mental patients;
  • Negligence in hiring a person who had been convicted of sexual assault in the past; and,
  • Failure to report incidents of dating between male employees and a recently released patient.

Damages for Victims of Sexual Abuse

Compensation in these cases is designed to make the victim whole, at least to the greatest extent possible. There are two types of damages available in sexual abuse and assault claims:

  • Economic Damages: Some losses can be quantified in terms of dollar value, such as the medical costs to treat injuries. In a sexual assault case, a victim may require care for both physical harm and emotional disorders. Plus, he or she could miss work. Lost wages are also a type of economic damages.
  • Non-economic Damages: This category of compensation is difficult to measure in dollar value because the losses are personal and subjective for the victim. Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life are examples.

Note that punitive damages, which aim to punish the defendant and discourage misconduct by others, are typically not available in a negligence case but may be warranted in outrageuos cases.

Discuss Legal Options with a Sexual Assault and Abuse Lawyer in Anchorage, AK

This overview of liability and damages in an Alaska sexual abuse claim is useful, but you can trust our team at Power & Power Law to handle the details. For more information on your legal remedies, please call 907-222-9990 or go online to schedule a free case review right away.