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Pasco jury slaps doctor with $820,000 in damages in groping case

NEW PORT RICHEY — Dr. Gunwant Dhaliwal must pay $700,000 in punitive damages to a woman he groped at his walk-in clinic in 2007, a jury decided Thursday.

Dhaliwal was slapped with the penalty in addition to $120,000 in pain and suffering damages the jury handed down a day earlier to Danielle Turner, a physician's assistant newly hired by Dhaliwal.

She testified in the civil trial this week that she went to Dhaliwal's Gulf View Walk-In Clinic on State Road 54 the evening of Feb. 12, 2007, after the clinic had closed, so Dhaliwal could demonstrate the facial skin procedure microdermabrasion on her. She said that after he finished, he applied a thin lotion to her face, then her chest, then slid his hands under her shirt and fondled her breasts.

She reported the incident to law enforcement the next day.

Dhaliwal, who is 50 and married with two children, testified the incident never happened. He said Turner came to his office, but they only chatted briefly in the lobby and he had not done microdermabrasion in his clinic for several years.

But Turner's attorney put a victim advocate on the stand this week who saw Turner the day after the incident. She testified that Turner's face was red and raw — as it would look following an abrasive skin treatment.

The jury deliberated about two hours Wednesday evening before siding with Turner. Jurors returned Thursday for the punitive damages phase.

Scott Borders, who represented Turner, said he asked the jury to return a punitive award of $409,000.

That amount represented the sale price of a condominium Dhaliwal bought in his sister-in-law's name to protect some of his assets, Borders said.

Instead, the jury awarded more. Half the $700,000 is against Dhaliwal himself and the other half is against the corporation that owns Gulf View Walk-In Clinic. State records show that Dhaliwal and a company called GSD Management Services are officers in the clinic. GSD's officers are Dhaliwal and his wife.

"I just thought that the jury did an excellent job in not buying what Dr. Dhaliwal was selling and giving a well-rounded, reasonable verdict on all aspects of the case," Borders said.

Dhaliwal still faces a criminal charge of battery in the incident. That case is set for trial Oct. 3. He has been accused by other women of similar conduct and in May, a criminal jury convicted him of battery against Marissa White, a patient who said Dhaliwal groped her during an exam. She, too, is suing him.

Dhaliwal's attorney, Chip Purcell, said he and his client disagree with the jury's decision but respect the process.

"He still contends that this did not happen," Purcell said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or on Twitter at @mollymoorhead.

Pasco jury slaps doctor with $820,000 in damages in groping case 09/22/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 8:38pm]
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