Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

Doctor was inappropriately touching me. Putting his hand on my leg repeatedly. After he said he couldn't treat me he told me he needed to take my pulse and listen to my heart. Stood behind me and put his stethescope down my top. Never took my pulse. Afterward, he asked if I had a husband or boyfriend. I replied yes. He then took me by the shoulders and hugged me. Told me I needed to tell my boyfriend to hug me everyday, but that I needed hugs from six different people every day. Still with his hands on my shoulders he hugged me again, then leaned in to kiss me and I got scared as he looked in to my eyes and I turned my face and he still kissed my cheek. I left in a hurry. I just had to get out of there. I didn't know who to tell. Two weeks later I filed a police report. The officer told me I should contact a lawyer because what this doctor did is only a misdemeanor. I'm appalled! I talked to a law firm that opted not to take this on as a case. I don't want this doctor to get away with what he did or might be doing to others. I called another lawyer. Was told by their screener that the lawyer won't take the case because I didn't cause a scene in the office. It's a matter of he said, she said....Is that true? I was scared and confused at the time. Should I just give up? Will no one take this case?

Asked on 10/25/13, 10:41 am

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2 Answers from Attorneys

Rob Reed Law Office of Robert A. Reed

Your best bet is to call the Medical State Licensing Board in Sacramento and report this...

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Answered on 10/25/13, 11:09 am

Timothy McCormick Libris Solutions - Dispute Resolution Services

You have two problems with finding anyone to take your case. The first is simple economics. Lawyers can only take cases on contingency, which I assume is what you would need, if there is enough of a pay-out if they win for them to work for free until they do win - AND collect. We have to pay our bills, our staff, our rent and feed our families. So when a win won't even result in a meaningful damages award, we can't take the case unless the client will pay us by the hour as we do the work. In the case you describe, you do not have much in the way of damages that can be compensated in money. In an employment case like this where someone has to quit their job to escape the harassment, and the harassment is ongoing for months or years, and they have to go into therapy to recover, there are real economic damages that a lawyer can be paid from. In your case you only have a single, if very disturbing, event, which will not result in much of a damages award. So unless you want to and are able to personally fund a crusade to make a point, by paying a lawyer each month for his or her time while they proceed with the case, there is no way a lawyer can take the case from an economic standpoint.

The second problem is what the other law firms told you. You don't have any admissible evidence any of this happened except your word. One of the things we lawyers know all too well is that people lie, a lot, for a lot of reasons. And sometimes they don't outright lie, but they exaggerate. That is why we look for more evidence than one person's word against another. In a civil case, the jury does not have to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but they do have to find in favor of the story that is "more likely than not" true. The burden of proving that is on the plaintiff. So if you have two completely opposite stories and no other evidence, the defendant generally wins, unless the jury is convinced the defendant is lying. That is because equally likely does not win. It has to be "more likely than not." So he-said, she-said cases are incredibly hard to win; they are 50/50 at best. That is also why the police are less than excited about the case, since they and the DA would have to prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt.

And that also goes back to the economics. A lawyer who only gets paid if they win, might take a 50/50 case if the pay-out would be huge, and they have plenty of other cases to support their practice. But taking a 50/50 chance on a he-said, she-said case when their 1/3 or even 40% of the judgment will be a few thousand dollars would be economic stupidity. Even pro bono non-profit legal services groups will not take cases like that, because they have to focus their limited funding on cases that will have a big impact and have a better chance of winning.

So the bottom line is that unless you want to and have the money to pay an attorney an hourly fee for the case, you have little or no chance of finding an attorney to take it. The best you can do is file complaints with the state medical board and any private specialty board he may be certified with, if any.

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Answered on 10/25/13, 11:24 am

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