Seven former employees of Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago have settled a more than $10 million lawsuit over a physical attack and a hidden camera in the women’s locker room.
The women accused the hospital of failing to act when violations of their own written policies were reported, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Of the total amount awarded, $7 million went to Dr. Caroline Ryan, an anesthesiologist who was attacked by a male colleague back in 2013. Dr. Stephen F. Laga, a surgeon, choked and pushed Ryan, which was witnessed by several hospital staff members and patients.
Ryan was asked by hospital administration to drop her report against Laga, despite him having a “long and documented” history of violent behavior, says the complaint.
He met with the hospital’s chief of surgery after each incident but was never disciplined, reports BNA.
A separate incident occurred the following year against six female nurses and technicians. A hidden camera was found on the toilet in a women’s locker room where they changed clothes and used the restroom.
The camera was planted by Dr. Robert Weiss, an eye surgeon at Illinois Masonic, who viewed and possibly shared the content. Weiss was arrested when the camera was discovered.
Although aware of his arrest, the hospital delayed suspending Weiss’ medical privileges. The women’s complaint also pointed out that the hospital had ignored previous reports of inappropriate sexual behavior from Weiss.
Weiss pleaded guilty to felony charges in December 2015.
The women involved in the bathroom camera portion of the lawsuit were awarded $1.175 million for the invasion of privacy by Weiss and an extra $2 million for punitive damages.
By ruling in favor of punitive damages, the jury was sending a clear message, said the women’s attorney Jeffrey Kulwin. He believes doctor misconduct has been tolerated because of the money they bring in to the hospitals.
“Today’s verdict against Advocate [Hospital] sends a strong message to Advocate, and employers everywhere, that violence in the workplace cannot be tolerated, especially at a place as important as a hospital,” Kulwin said.
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