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Class-action lawsuit filed against hospital

A class-action lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of a handful of women who fear they might have been sexually assaulted by nurse Bruce Alan Young while under anesthesia at Citrus Memorial Hospital.

With the court's permission, the lawyers who filed the suit hope to press the same complaint on behalf of perhaps 300 or more women who are in the same situation.

Crystal River attorneys David Best and Dutch Anderson filed the lawsuit in circuit court, asking that the hospital immediately set up a fund for the women to be tested for diseases and counseled.

The lawyers said they are not certain how many women could be involved, but they believe the number exceeds 300. They will be asking for damages "far in excess of the sum of $15,000."

The suit seeks compensation for those women "who will never know whether or not they were victims of (Young) and therefore will suffer in the future as if they were their victims," the suit says.

Best said he and his partner represent eight clients. Three of the women will file individual suits because they are certain they were raped. The other five will be represented in the class-action suit, which hopes to include any woman treated at the hospital between 1990 and 1994 and can prove that Young was her nurse.

"This class-action suit is being filed on behalf of hundreds of women who don't know if they were assaulted, but they do know that Bruce Young was their nurse," Best said.

Young, 45, is accused of raping five women in the hospital's recovery room shortly after they had surgery. Police say that on Oct. 3, another nurse walked into the recovery room to find Young, partly nude, lying on a 15-year-old girl.

Police say that Young later admitted that he sexually molested a 23-year-old woman Aug. 19. Records show that hospital officials had been notified of Young's behavior, and someone had counseled Young in connection with the Aug. 19 incident.

So far, three women have filed individual lawsuits against Citrus Memorial Hospital.

The class-action lawsuit states that Citrus Memorial Hospital should have known that Young lost his Florida teaching certificate in 1988 for sexual misconduct with a female student.

When Young applied for a nursing license in 1990, he was required by the Board of Nursing to undergo a psycho/sexual evaluation shortly before he was hired at Citrus Memorial Hospital.

"Citrus Memorial Hospital gave Bruce Alan Young, a known sexual deviant, the opportunity and means to sexually assault female patients at the hospital," the lawsuit said.

"They did so by placing him in the recovery room, where there would be an almost endless supply of helpless female patients for him to sexually molest as he saw fit."

An unnamed woman referred to in the suit alleges that on Aug. 12, 1991, through Aug. 16, 1991, she underwent surgery at the hospital and was given a general anesthetic. Records show that Young was her recovery nurse for about an hour or more.

During that time, Young gave the woman intravenous narcotics, but Young's charting for Aug. 12, 1991, indicates that the woman was awake, alert and oriented when, in fact, she was unconscious for the majority of the time she was under his care.

Best and Anderson recently were chastised for running an advertisement in a local newspaper soliciting women who thought they might be victims of sexual assault at the hospital.

Legally speaking, the attorneys and their clients must meet strict tests before a judge will grant them class-action status. According to the Florida rules of civil procedure, Best and Anderson must show that:

There are so many "class" members that filing separate actions is impractical.

The claim raises a question of law and fact that are common to all class members.

The claims' merits are the same for each member.

Best and Anderson can fairly and adequately protect and represent each member's interests.

Beyond that, Best and Anderson must show that prosecution of separate claims would create a risk of inconsistent or varying judgment for class members, or that the hospital has refused to act on grounds applicable to all members, or that the claims involve questions of law and fact for the class that predominate over any question of law and fact affecting only individuals.

If a judge grants class-action status, then all potential class members must be notified. Potential members may join the action or ask to be excused, either because they don't wish to pursue a claim or because they wish to explore a civil claim individually.

Citrus Memorial Hospital has 20 days to respond to the suit.