A trial has begun in The Dalles, Ore. in lawsuits brought by three victims of an anesthesiologist who sedated patients and colleagues and then sexually abused them.
Three women are asking for $6 million each in suits naming the hospital, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, and two top officials, the Dalles Chronicle reported.
Dr. Frederick Field was sentenced in September 2012 to 23 years in prison for molesting sedated women. He had pleaded guilty to 11 counts of sex abuse and one count of rape.
The abuse occurred from 2007 to 2011.
The suit alleges the hospital failed to act on allegations in 2008 and that allowed Field to prey on victims for three more years.
A lawyer for the women said in opening statement Thursday the hospital deliberately concealed information.
For instance, said Gregory Kafoury of Portland, records were misplaced and then not turned over to investigators for months, a hospital vice president tried to discredit a report one woman made of abuse, and a police investigator said that the hospital’s failure to provide information held up the criminal case.
“The culture, as you will see, comes from the very top,” Kafoury said.
The hospital says its officials were told of only two victims before law enforcement authorities took over the investigation and asked that Field not be told he was under investigation.
One victim didn’t respond to calls and letters seeking information, and the other recanted her story, said a hospital attorney, Andrew Efaw of Denver.
“There were a lot of victims and they didn’t come forward,” he said. “What are you going to do when somebody won’t step up and tell you what’s going on.”
The trial is expected to last as long as three weeks. Of the 12 victims, 10 have sought compensation. Trials of five are to be held later. The hospital said two women have agreed to out-of-court settlements under undisclosed terms.