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Haley* had tried an extensive number of diets and exercise programs over the years, but she just couldn’t seem to lose the weight. When Haley was finally accepted into the bariatric surgery program at UF Health Jacksonville, she was elated. However, her excitement was short-lived. During her pre-check appointment to prepare for the surgery, the doctor who was supposed to help her through this process ended up sexually assaulting her. Scared and not knowing what to do, Haley called her boyfriend and her best friend for advice. They urged her to call the police, which led to an investigation into the local internal medicine doctor and his subsequent arrest by the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office (at publication time the charges are still pending). During this terrible ordeal, Haley was devastated and uncertain what would happen in his criminal case. She wanted to make sure he didn’t get away with what he had done to her, so she called the legal team at Coker Law.
Sexual assault cases that occur in medical malpractice pose many difficulties. In a lot of cases, the argument has to prove that the doctor’s actions fall within his insurance coverage, so damages can be awarded to the plaintiff. If not, the doctor’s insurance carrier will deny coverage by claiming that the assault falls outside of the actions of a normal physician. Since sexual assault is an intentional tort (intentionally causing harm to another) and not a negligent act under law, it’s often difficult to receive coverage from the insurance. However, the experienced team at Coker Law knew they needed to do some extensive research to bring Haley justice – and that’s exactly what they did.
The medical malpractice team at Coker Law was able to locate the policies and protocols for the doctor’s employer. In the policies and protocols, it stated that a nurse must be present in the room with the doctor while they perform a physical examination. Since the doctor did not have a nurse present in the room when he performed a physical exam on Haley, he violated company policy and his insurance considered it a negligent act. Coker Law was able to recover compensation for Haley’s physical, mental and emotional suffering due to the doctor’s violation of company policy.
“People might be shocked to learn that the vast majority of civil cases which involve a sexual assault by a doctor results in no recovery because of the severe limitations of insurance coverage and disclaimers for intentional torts,” said Lindsay Tygart, Coker Law attorney. “Due to the meticulous investigation by Coker Law’s medical malpractice team, we were able to prove our client’s claim was covered by this doctor’s insurance coverage. This was truly a team effort.” Nothing will ever take away the damage done by this doctor but knowing that he didn’t get away with harming her has helped Haley take the first step on her long road to recovery.
*The client’s name has been changed to keep anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the case.
Case Title: Haley* v. Local internal medicine doctor
Attorneys/Staff Involved in Case: Lindsay Tygart and Paralegal Heather Brown
Date of Settlement: August 16, 2018
Amount of Settlement: Confidential