Sex assault lawsuit filed against local hospital


By: Tom Duggan – February 2, 2008

Imagine that you have been voluntarily admitted to the hospital to recover from an illness or injury and another patient sexually attacks you while you are trying to recover.

 According to a patient’s complaint (name withheld), that is exactly what happened to her after being admitted to Holy Family Hospital in Methuen. As a result, the patient has filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court seeking over half a million dollars against Holy Family Hospital, Inc., Caritas Valley regional Support Services, Inc., Joseph Minick, M.D., and Humberto Gomez.

 According to the complaint, the patient was being cared for at the St. Michael’s Unit of the Center for Behavioral Medicine at Holy Family Hospital between April 30, 2002 through May 3, 2002.

 During that time, Humberto Gomez was admitted to the St. Michael’s Unit for treatment of psychiatric and mental disorders and illnesses. During the plaintiff’s stay at the facility, Humberto Gomez allegedly entered her room without permission, verbally and physically harassed her and on May 3, 2002, physically and sexually assaulted her while she was sleeping.

 Humberto Gomez was arrested on May 3, 2002 by the Methuen police and charged with rape and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over. Gomez pled guilty and has since served jail time for this crime. He is now a registered sex offender.

 At the time of this incident, Dr. Joseph Minick was the Medical Director of the St. Michael’s Unit of the Center for Behavioral Medicine.

 According to the complaint, “Dr. Minick represented and held himself out to be skilled in the care, treatment, and counseling of various conditions of mental and emotional health, and in providing a safe and secure environment to those patients of the facility.”

 The complaint further alleges that the woman’s injuries were the result of the “carelessness, unskillfulness, (sic) negligence and improper care by Dr. Minick and Holy Family Hospital in failing to ensure, or take responsible steps to ensure adequate and proper supervision and monitoring of other psychiatric patients in the unit.”

 The complaint further claims that Dr. Minick, in his role as Medical Director, failed to provide appropriate supervision, management or monitoring of patients in the psychiatric unit, especially those patients with the psychiatric histories for aggression, assault, psychosis, battery and sexual deviance.

 Dr. Minick is no longer employed by Holy Family Hospital and is presently an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego, Department of Psychiatry. He is represented by Attorney Robert Burgess of Boston.

 The Holy Family Hospital and Caritas Valley Regional Support Services are represented by Attorney Wilson Rogers Jr. of The Rogers Law Firm in Boston. The Rogers Law Firm has represented the Archdiocese of Boston during the sex abuse scandals. The woman who filed the suit is being represented by Attorney David J. Hoey of North Reading, MA.

 So far, the Court has ordered the release of medical records of Humberto Gomez from Holy Family Hospital and Lawrence General Hospital and allowed a motion to compel Dr. Ricardo Dancel to be deposed (questioned on the record).

 Dr. Dancel is affiliated with Balpate Hospital in Boxford. Shortly after this incident, his privileges at Holy Family Hospital were revoked.

 On February 1, 2006, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine took disciplinary action against Dr. Dancel finding that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with a coworker and ordered that he attend sexual harassment awareness training.

 To date, Dr. Dancel is not a party to this lawsuit, but sources close to the case say that Dr. Dancel was Gomez’ physician.

 A pre-trial hearing on this case is scheduled for March 13, 2008.

 The Valley Patriot will be following this case and will report on any the result of the lawsuit.