Possibility of Sexual Assault by Hospital Interpreter Was Foreseeable – Doe v. Boston Medical Center Corporation

Many things can go wrong in a hospital setting. A doctor or nurse can fail to follow the established standard of care, and a patient can suffer the consequences of medical malpractice. A janitor can fail to put up a “wet floor” sign, causing a visitor to slip and fall. A security guard can fail to notice a dangerous trespasser in a parking garage, and a patient’s family member may be attacked.

Ultimately, the question of whether the medical facility is liable to the injured person in such situations depends upon the basic components of negligence law. Was a duty owed? Was the duty breached? Was the plaintiff harmed? Was there causation between the breach of duty and the plaintiff’s damages?

In the case of Doe v. Boston Medical Center Corporation, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts was called upon to review a lower court’s opinion that it was not reasonably foreseeable that an interpreter, who had no prior criminal convictions but whose conduct with patients was largely self-regulated, would sexually assault a patient.

The Facts of the Case

According to a complaint filed in superior court, the plaintiff was a Spanish-speaking immigrant who was admitted to the defendant hospital in 2008. At the time, she was about to deliver her first child. An interpreter hired by the hospital allegedly entered her room, lifted her gown, and touched her abdomen and vagina. Another patient was also reportedly sexually assaulted in the hospital by the interpreter on the same day. The interpreter was subsequently terminated.

The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, seeking recovery on a theory of negligent supervision of the interpreter. The trial judge granted summary judgment to the hospital, stating that the hospital could not have foreseen that the interpreter would assault the plaintiff.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. According to the court, the question was not whether the interpreter’s “specific assault” was foreseeable, based upon his previous conduct, but instead whether an assault on an unattended, minimally clothed patient was foreseeable, given that the door to her room was open and unmonitored. The court went on to find that the hospital’s policy of allowing interpreters to be alone with patients meant that such harm was foreseeable. As to the question of whether the hospital met its duty of care, the court found that this was a question for the jury to determine, not the trial court on a motion for summary judgment.

To Get Help with a Hospital Negligence or Medical Malpractice Case

Claims against doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers can take many forms. If you or a loved one has been hurt because of the negligence, malpractice, or other misconduct of a Massachusetts health care provider, the medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can help. Call us at 888-262-6664 and ask for a free initial consultation. We have offices in Hyannis and Plymouth and accept injury cases throughout Cape Cod and the State of Massachusetts. Nos falamos Portugues!

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