A San Francisco sexual assault lawsuit has been filed by a woman against the medical consortium Kaiser Permanente, saying she was sexually assaulted during a hospital visit in January 2017. The plaintiff, who is named as “Jane Doe” in court documents, accuses Kaiser of allowing a known abuser to stay on the job with easy access to female patients, the East Bay Times reports.
Based out of Oakland, California, Kaiser Permanente currently operates around 40 hospitals and 720 smaller medical practices, serving nearly 12 million patients.
And, while the company is known for offering high-quality health care, a woman from California says that company officials at the Kaiser Permanente Union City Medical Offices ignored multiple complaints of sexual assault against employee Efrain Castanon.
On January 25, 2017, the plaintiff says she went to the medical facility in Union City for a routine doctor’s visit. As she waited in the exam room, Castanon came in and suddenly grabbed her from behind, court documents say. Wrapping his arms around her neck, the man allegedly pushed the patient against a bed, said “I have something for you” and forced her to touch his exposed penis.
In a statement to reporters, the woman’s attorney provided more details from the alleged assault: “Even though Plaintiff was petrified, she pleaded with him to stop and threatened to scream if he didn’t stop.” Castanon reportedly began to rub his genitals against the plaintiff’s buttocks, but stopped short of raping her. Then, the man allegedly threatened his victim to remain quiet.
She did not; local law enforcement officers arrived soon after the woman reported the assault. Castanon was arrested after being identified as the alleged assailant.
In February 2017, the 47-year-old medical assistant was taken into the custody of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and charged with four felonies: assault with intent to commit a sex crime, sexual battery by restraint, false imprisonment by violence and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. He is now awaiting trial, according to CBS SFBayArea, having been released into the community on his own recognizance.
During the police investigation, at least one doctor at the facility told police that Kaiser had already received complaints about Castanon, the woman’s lawsuit claims. “While the facts of the assault are traumatic,” her lawyer says, “what makes this case more offensive is that Kaiser had previous complaints about this employee, and yet they allowed him to continue to have access to female patients.”
A spokesperson for Kaiser told the East Bay Times that the man is no longer employed by the company. “At Kaiser Permanente,” the spokesman said, “the safety of our patients is our highest priority, and we will not accept behavior that puts them at risk. We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and we fully cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation.”
That may or may not be true, but in her lawsuit, the plaintiff says that Kaiser’s negligence occurred long before the police ever began investigating Efrain Castanon. As her complaint notes, medical facility owners have a duty to protect patients and other lawful guests from foreseeable risks of harm. Kaiser utterly failed to uphold that duty, she argues, by allowing a man who had allegedly been reported for assault in the past to continue working with patients.
She is suing Kaiser Permanente, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on claims of negligence, and leveling allegations of assault, battery, gender violence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Castanon.