Hospital Not Liable for Counselor’s Sexual Harassment of Patients

Doe v. Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, 628 F.3d 1325 (11th Cir. 2010)

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that Grady Memorial Hospital is not liable for one of its counselor’s sexual misconduct with three patients in its methadone treatment clinic. The plaintiffs alleged that the counselor made inappropriate sexual advances during drug counseling sessions, and that Grady failed to conduct an adequate background investigation prior to hiring the counselor and to adequately supervise the counselor. The Court found that under Georgia law an employer cannot be found liable for the sexual misconduct of an employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior. In addition, the Court upheld the finding of the district court that the hospital exercised ordinary care in the hiring process. While its screening protocols were less than ideal, the hospital had no actual notice of prior misconduct by this employee; he passed criminal background checks and a drug test; and he provided dishonest information during the application and interview process as to why he left his previous jobs. The fact that the hospital failed to comply with Georgia regulation requiring it obtain a five-year employment history on all applicants posed licensing problems only and did not impost tort liability on the hospital.

Found in DMHL Volume 30 Issue 3