Richter approves $ 15 million settlement for the rape of an incapacitated woman who was later born at the Phoenix nursing home

A judge has cleared a $ 15 million settlement against a doctor in a lawsuit brought by the parents of an incapacitated woman who was sexually abused and later gave birth to a child in a Phoenix care center to rape.

The commissioned by Dr. The deal reached with Phillip Gear, who mentored the woman for 26 years while living at Hacienda Healthcare, was deemed appropriate by a judge last week. But Gear’s insurer, who died late last year, said in court records it was under no obligation to pay the amount, arguing that the doctor’s policy did not cover claims arising from any sexual act.

It is the largest publicly known settlement over the attack on the woman who has been in a vegetative state since childhood and gave birth to a child in December 2018. Her parents sued the state of Arizona, Gear, and another doctor who was caring for their daughter.

The state, which has contracts with companies like Hacienda to provide services to people with developmental disabilities, reached a $ 7.5 million deal last summer.

Dr. Thanh Nguyen, who cared for the woman in the months leading up to the surprise birth, and a medical group also settled undisclosed claims against her last summer. And Hacienda Healthcare agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount before the woman’s parents filed their lawsuit in late 2019.

Ruling the $ 15 million settlement reasonable, Judge Theodore Campagnolo concluded that Gear’s treatment of the woman had fallen below standard of care because she did not diagnose her pregnancy and did not check her regularly.

The woman’s mother’s mother’s wish to employ only female employees was not followed, the judge said. Campagnolo also said evidence that the incapacitated woman was the victim of numerous sexual assaults is undisputed in the civil process.

Kevin Barrett, an attorney who previously represented Gear in his insurer’s lawsuit against the doctor, did not immediately respond late Tuesday morning asking for comment. Gear died on December 20th.

The pregnancy was discovered when a worker at the care facility changed the victim’s clothes, then 29, and noticed that she was giving birth. Staff told police they had no idea the woman was pregnant.

The birth sparked government reviews, raised safety concerns for severely disabled or incapacitated patients, and resulted in the resignation of the Hacienda general manager.

Police said the DNA of Nathan Sutherland, a licensed practical nurse who worked at Hacienda, matched a sample taken from the woman’s son.

Sutherland, who was released after his arrest and later gave up his nursing license, has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult. He was not a target of the lawsuit.

The victim lived at the hacienda for 26 years until their son was born, who is now cared for by their parents.

The woman has been in a vegetative state since childhood. Campagnolo wrote that the cause of her condition was unclear. When she was around 2 years old, she nearly drowned, which deprived her brain of oxygen, although there was also evidence that she had congenital problems such as seizure disorders soon after she was born, the judge wrote.

Family lawyers said Hacienda missed signs that the woman was carrying a baby, such as her weight gain and a swollen stomach, and that she gave birth to the boy without pain medication. Her lawsuit also alleged that the state poorly monitored the operations of the Hacienda.

Campagnolo said medical records showed Gear did not regularly examine the woman for at least three years before being relocated in September 2018.

Although the woman’s mother had requested that her daughter be cared for only by women, evidence showed that Sutherland and other men had looked after her over the years, Campagnolo wrote. The judge said the woman’s mother made the petitions after she was told that her daughter may have been sexually assaulted in 2002.

Phoenix Police said health officials at the time discovered that some hacienda employees had used sexual language when talking to patients, but they were unable to substantiate the allegations of physical abuse. Police said there was not enough evidence to warrant a criminal complaint against employees.

Gears insurer argued that Gear was not the woman’s general practitioner at birth and could not be held responsible for sexual assault.

“The first fact is correct and the second fact is questionable,” wrote Campagnolo. “However, Dr. Gear’s liability was not limited to sexual assault and childbirth.”

Campagnolo wrote that Gear had known since 2002 that there were allegations of sexual abuse that could have included the patient in question.

“The fact that the internal investigation found no evidence of sexual assault would Dr. Don’t worry Gear, ”Campagnolo wrote, adding that the doctor knew that the woman’s mother had only requested female caregivers.

Megan Rose, an Arizona Department of Administration spokeswoman, declined to comment on the state’s settlement.

Hacienda spokesman David Leibowitz, Nguyen’s attorney Andrew Rosenzweig, and Robin Burgess, an attorney representing Gears insurer James River Insurance Company, didn’t respond to calls for comments.

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