DENVER – A former patient of Denver Health filed a lawsuit Friday against the hospital claiming she was raped while recovering from a brain injury.
The woman, mostly incoherent after coming out of a coma she was put in after suffering a traumatic brain injury, alleges she was raped by an unknown man during her stay at the hospital in 2016.
Attorneys for the woman filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Colorado despite a Denver Police investigation that failed to conclude a crime was committed based on lab results. However, her attorneys say they are unfamiliar with the extent of the police investigation and look forward to proving their case.
Denver7 is not currently naming the plaintiff in the case, as she alleges she is the victim of a sexual assault.
The woman had been in a car crash on July 21, 2016 and was in a coma for 43 days afterward at Denver Health, according to the suit.
On Sept. 16, the woman was “incoherent, would drift out of consciousness, and was unable to make sense of where she was or what was happening to her,” the suit says.
Her husband visited her that morning, and around 7:30 p.m. that evening, a new registered nurse took over care of the woman for the evening. Two hours later, one of the woman’s nurses alerted the woman’s doctor that the woman “had redness in her groin area,” according to the lawsuit.
The doctor said the day team would check the woman’s groin area out the next day, and the woman’s husband was notified of her status that night, according to the lawsuit.
The next day, the suit says, the woman’s urine from a catheter bag was sent to a lab for a urinalysis. When the results came back two days later, on Sept. 19, it showed there was semen in her urine, according to the lawsuit.
Denver Health’s Risk Management team and the Denver Police Department were notified that semen had been found in the woman’s urine and were called in to investigate. Risk Management tried to interview the woman, but the lawsuit says she was “unable to provide coherent information” because of her brain injury.
They also interviewed her husband, who said he had not had relations with his wife for more than a year beforehand.
That same day, Sept. 19, a physician at Denver Health conducted a forensic exam on the woman and took swabs from her genitals and other parts of her body often exposed to DNA during sexual assaults.
She tested positive for bodily and genital trauma, according to the lawsuit.
The woman continued undergoing treatment until she was released to a rehab center in November 2016.
The lawsuit claims that Denver Health violated the woman’s 14th Amendment rights because of its “deliberate indifference to her life, safety, and serious medical needs as an incapacitated individual.”
It blames Denver Health’s policies and practices, which allegedly included having no security guards to ensure Intensive Care Unit patients were guarded, for the woman’s alleged rape—saying the hospital meets the level of “deliberate indifference in violation of the due process clause.”
The suit claims that Denver Health should have known its policies “would place [the woman] at risk of substantial physical injury.”
“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant Denver Health’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect [the woman] from dangers of which it knew or should have known, [the woman] has suffered, continues to suffer, and will suffer in the future, injuries, damages, emotional distress and other losses in an amount to be determined by the trier of fact,” the suit says.
The woman and her attorney have requested a trial in the case, and are seeking declaratory and equitable relief, economic losses, non-economic compensatory and consequential damages for her emotional distress and suffering, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees, among other requests.
The woman’s attorney said the suit was filed to bring such issues to light, to take a closer look at Denver Health’s policy and procedures, and to see if there are more victims in the case.
The Denver Police Department said its review had found the claims were unfounded after a lab review of the blood.
Denver Health issued a statement over the weekend in response to this story:
Last night, 7News Denver reported on a 2016 incident that may be the subject of a lawsuit against Denver Health.
The incident relates to a patient seen at Denver Health in September 2016. Following a lab test, there was concern that the patient may have been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact while in our care.
As per our normal procedure, this concern was immediately reported to Denver Police Department and the patient's family. Denver Police conducted an investigation, and Denver Health reviewed the lab test results.
On review, an error was identified in a lab procedure, which lead to the reporting of an incorrect lab test result. Information about the lab test result and review was provided to Denver Police.
Denver Police reviewed the information and concluded their investigation. Based on the review of lab results, Denver Police determined no crime had occurred and the case was unfounded.
Denver Health deeply regrets the error in the lab test. We apologized through the patient’s family for the distress caused by the error.
The Denver Health laboratory revised its testing procedures and relevant staff were retrained. Patient safety is our most important priority and our staff work hard every day to provide the best care for all who need us.