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Calif. Clinic Sued Over Alleged Sexual Assaults by Nurse

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A California clinic has been slapped with a civil suit following charges of sexual assault by one of its nurses.

The Avenal Community Health Center, located in Avenal, California, has been accused of negligent supervision of nurse practitioner Jeff Sabino, who was arrested in 2013 and is facing 36 criminal counts including forcible penetration and sexual battery. The Hartford Sentinel reports that one of his alleged victims filed the civil suit to recover for her injury and emotional distress.

What is this nurse accused of that has this California clinic in court?

Sabino Accused of Multiple Assaults

Sabino is set to stand trial on September 15 for his three dozen charges; if convicted, he faces up to 30 years to life in prison. These charges and the civil allegations arise from reports that women who visited the Avenal Community Health Center (AVHC) had inappropriate or unnecessary pelvic exams performed on them by the 65-year-old nurse. These incidents are alleged to have begun as early as 2011.

However, Sabino's family maintains his innocence in the face of these charges, positing that law enforcement "get promoted" for bringing cases like his to court. They also believe that the victims who reported sexual abuse were recruited by a woman with "a shady past" and an ax to grind against Sabino.

Negligent Supervision

Estey Bomberger, a lawyer representing one of Sabino's alleged victims, told the Sentinel that once the clinic learned of these complaints, "[Sabino] should never have been allowed access to these women." Employers can be found negligent for the actions of their employees in many ways, but one way is to prove that Sabino was negligently supervised.

As seen in the litigation that followed the Jerry Sandusky trial, if an institution knew there were complaints of sexual abuse and did nothing, liability is likely to follow. Although any complaints of sexual abuse or inappropriate conduct by a medical professional is alarming, it may come down to how credible each complaint against Sabino was.

Luckily for Sabino's alleged victims, his criminal trial may answer many of these questions of whether he performed the heinous acts guised as pelvic exams. If he is convicted, the conviction for sexual assault would be proof enough in civil court that Sabino did commit the assaults. While this would be the least of Sabino's worries, it would be a legal blow for the AVHC.

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