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Nurse's defender quits, citing conflict

The lawyer defending nurse Bruce Alan Young begged off the case Wednesday after citing an unusual ethical conflict: a co-worker fears she may be one of the women Young allegedly raped in Citrus Memorial Hospital's recovery room.

In addition, Citrus Memorial moved to dismiss three lawsuits filed by women who say Young sexually assaulted them while they were under anesthesia.

And in Tallahassee, the state agency that governs nurses issued an emergency order suspending Young's license to practice.

Young, 45, stands accused of sexually battering five female patients between December and Oct. 3. Police arrested him at the hospital that night after a fellow nurse said she saw Young partly nude atop a 15-year-old patient.

Authorities say Young attacked his victims in the recovery room after he gave them drugs, such as Demerol, that rendered them defenseless. Police have talked to more than 80 women so far, but prosecutors have identified only five as victims.

Young remained behind bars late Wednesday, held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The court judged Young indigent earlier this month, so the task of legally advising him immediately fell to Assistant Public Defender Liz Osmond, a former prosecutor.

That all changed Tuesday when Osmond's boss received some surprise news.

"One of the persons in one of our offices may have been a victim," said Public Defender Skip Babb, whose staffs defend indigent clients in Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake and Sumter counties. He declined to say where the woman worked.

Babb's office called the Florida Bar, which advised a withdrawal because of the potential conflict and implications after a trial.

"If (Young) were to be found guilty," Babb said, "he would say, "One of the persons in your office was on the (victim) list and you didn't do as good a job as you could do.' "

Circuit Judge John Thurman approved the move Wednesday after a hearing behind closed doors.

The county already has paid a private lawyer, Steve Hurm, $25,000 this year to handle all cases in which the public defender's office must withdraw. Hurm expects to handle about 80 cases this year. Hurm, however, also has a conflict with Young: One of the alleged victims wants him to represent her in a lawsuit against the hospital.

Thurman appointed Bushnell lawyer Bill Lackay to the job. State and local orders allow Lackay to bill the county $60 per hour.

In other court action, Citrus Memorial took issue with legal strategies and points contained in three civil lawsuits, two seeking more than $1-million in damages.

In two of the cases, hospital lawyer Andrew Patillo stated, accusations of battery and sexual battery appear directed only at Young, not the hospital. If Citrus Memorial is a target, Patillo said, then the suits failed to properly state their cause of action.

All three suits claim that CMH is at least partly responsible for Young's actions. But the hospital can't be held vicariously liable "for any injury or damage caused by Young's alleged misconduct" unless the plaintiffs show that the employee "acted within the real or apparent scope of the employer's business," Patillo wrote.

In these cases, accusations clearly show that Young was acting outside the scope of his employment at Citrus Memorial, and that his "deliberate, wrongful acts" did not further the hospital's mission of medically treating the patients involved, Patillo wrote.

As for the claims that Citrus Memorial was negligent in hiring, supervising and retaining Young, the lawyer noted that the plaintiffs missed a legal step: They were supposed to file their suit under rules governing medical malpractice.

Among other things, those rules require plaintiffs to put the hospital on notice that a lawsuit could be forthcoming. The three victims failed to do so, and the courts now may dismiss the suits, Patillo wrote.

The Agency for Health Care Administration issued a five-page document that summarizes the accusations against Young. Director Douglas M. Cook concluded that Young violated the Florida law that prohibits engaging in sexual misconduct in the practice of nursing and engaging in unprofessional conduct.

Cook found that Young's continued practice "constitutes an immediate and serious danger" to the public, so he summarily suspended Young's license and moved to seek formal suspension or revocation soon.

Young is allowed an appeal.