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3 women sue Huntington Hospital, accusing gynecologist of sexual misconduct

3 women sue Huntington Hospital, accusing gynecologist of sexual misconduct
Huntington Memorial Hospital faces a federal lawsuit over accusations that a longtime physician sexually harassed women during exams in the 1990s. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

Three women filed a federal lawsuit against Huntington Memorial Hospital and one of its longest-serving obstetricians Wednesday, alleging that the physician subjected them to unwanted sexual remarks during exams in the 1990s.

The suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles comes a week after The Times reported that Dr. Patrick Sutton had been accused of sexual misconduct by five other patients. Sutton, 64, settled four of those accusations without admitting any sexual wrongdoing, and he has said through a lawyer that he plans to contest the fifth pending complaint.

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In the wake of The Times’ report, Huntington administrators announced that Sutton would be removed from hospital leadership and have a chaperone when treating women in the maternity ward. The Pasadena hospital also said he would no longer be on its list of doctors on call to deliver babies.

Eileen Neuwirth, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said in a statement Wednesday that administrators were reviewing the lawsuit.

“Huntington Hospital takes seriously all issues of patient health and safety,” Neuwirth said.

Sutton’s attorney did not immediately respond Wednesday to the lawsuit’s allegations.

The suit was filed by Pennsylvania-based Sauder Schelkopf LLC and the San Francisco-based firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein LLP, whose attorneys are also suing USC on behalf of more than 50 women who allege they were sexually abused by campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall.

The women in Wednesday’s suit were identified only by their initials, and although all three plaintiffs delivered their children at the hospital, none of the alleged misconduct occurred on Huntington’s grounds. Their lawyers wrote that at a 1999 postpartum checkup, Sutton made lewd comments to plaintiff K.G. and groped her breasts.

The suit alleged that when another patient, T.F., asked Sutton what to do about a migraine during pregnancy in the late 1990s, he instructed her to “masturbate in order to make the blood rush to her head” and then to let him know by phone whether she had been able to achieve orgasm.

In two previous cases — one concerning a 1998 patient visit and the other in 2008 — the Medical Board of California sought to revoke or suspend Sutton’s medical license for causes including sexual misconduct. Sutton reached agreements with the board under which he admitted to failing to maintain medical records and was placed on probation. He was twice ordered to take a professional boundaries course and once sent to psychotherapy.

In a Sept. 24 filing, a medical board lawyer accused Sutton of making inappropriate remarks about a patient’s appearance and sex life during a 2016 visit. The allegation is pending.

Two additional former patients filed a lawsuit in 2005 accusing Sutton of touching them inappropriately and making graphic, sexually charged remarks during medical exams, according to a draft complaint in the case. Sutton settled the case in 2005 for an undisclosed sum, and the file has since been destroyed by Los Angeles County Superior Court officials. Both women have declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement.

6:00 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Huntington Memorial Hospital.

This article was originally publised at 3:20 p.m.

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