The civil trial against Mid-Columbia Medical Center involving the sexual abuse of patients by a former anesthesiologist begins today, Oct. 1, in the Wasco County courtroom of Judge Paul Crowley.
According to court reports, 142 prospective jurors have been called for what is expected to be a two to three-week trial. Twelve of these individuals will be asked to consider whether the victims should be awarded $27 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit was brought forward on behalf of seven women — patients and hospital employees — who claim to have been molested by Dr. Frederick Field. They said the inappropriate sexual behavior occurred while they were sedated for medical problems and unable to defend themselves.
Representing the three women involved in the initial trial is the Portland firm of Kafoury and McDougal, which specializes in cases involving severe injuries and refuses to represent insurance companies or corporations. The trial for their remaining four clients will take place at a later date to avoid extending the timeline of court proceedings even further.
The legal team of Gregory Kafoury, Mark McDougal and Jason Kafoury contend the hospital failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse in 2008 and, therefore, set the stage for the same scenario to play out with more victims over the next three years.
The hospital will be defended by Robert Keating, who spent four years in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps before moving to Portland and setting up practice. He specializes in complex civil litigation involving the medical community and will be assisted by Andrew Efaw, an attorney from Colorado. Efaw also focuses on medical malpractice claims in federal and state courts throughout the country.
The suit was filed by Kafoury and McDougal in August 2011 involving one victim and then grew to include another six out of the 12 involved in Wasco County’s criminal case against the anesthesiologist who worked at the hospital for five years.
In September 2012, Field, 47, was sentenced to 23 years in prison after admitting to 11 counts of sex abuse and one count of rape involving former patients and co-workers.
Wasco County Chief Deputy District Attorney Leslie Wolf prosecuted the case that made headlines across the state and beyond.
Ten of the women in the criminal case have sought compensation and three have signed on with attorneys other than Kafoury and McDougal.
Last week, Dick Baltus, spokesperson for MCMC, said two of these cases were recently settled out of court, although he declined to provide further information. In a July 5 pre-trial hearing document, Keating said MCMC administrators knew of only two out of the 12 sexual abuse complaints against Field when the police investigation began in the spring of 2011.
Therefore, he said officials from the hospital only had the opportunity to respond to two of the allegations.
He said phone calls to one potential victim had gone unanswered and the other had recanted her claim.
Keating said administrators were then asked not to let Field know that he was under investigation so they were unable to take measures to bar him from contact with other patients and employees.
Kafoury and McDougal contend the hospital engaged in a deliberate pattern of “concealment and deceit” to protect the doctor.
In a telephone call made by a former surgery patient and recorded by a detective in 2011, Field acknowledged sexually inappropriate behavior wtih the woman and first blamed it on her and then asked for her silence due to fears about his career.