Originally created 08/14/97

Woman suing hospital



AIKEN - An Aiken County woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a technician at Aiken Regional Medical Centers has filed a lawsuit accusing the hospital and its employees of trying to criminally cover up information about the assault.

Shan White filed the suit Tuesday in Aiken County Court of Common Pleas. Aiken Regional is named as the sole defendant. A phone call to the hospital seeking comment was not returned.

Andre Tufts, a former orthopedic technician at Aiken Regional, was arrested and charged with third degree sexual assault on March 24 after Ms. White went to the Aiken Department of Public Safety with her complaint. The charge is still pending against Mr. Tufts.

Richmond County deputies arrested Mr. Tufts, 31, at his job, also as technician, at Georgia Regional Hospital on Old Savannah Road. Mr. Tufts faced a similar charge in 1995 for an incident at University Hospital. The charge was dismissed when the patient died from unrelated causes.

Ms. White's suit accuses Aiken Regional of gross negligence in failing to check Mr. Tufts' prior employment history and criminal record, and in allowing "a new male employee sole access to a female patient."

Ms. White also says in her suit that she believes Aiken Regional's employees were guilty of not reporting a felony and obstruction of justice for refusing to answer questions from public safety officers.

No employees, other than Mr. Tufts, were arrested and charged in connection with the incident.

The hospital's actions were "so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community," the suit states.

On March 18, Ms. White went to Aiken Regional's emergency room for treatment of a severe back problem. According to her suit, she was left alone in an area blocked off from view.

Mr. Tufts walked up to her, identified himself as an orthopedic doctor, and said he needed to examine Ms. White, the suit states. He then sexually assaulted her, the suit alleges.

According to a police report of the incident, Ms. White had been given a shot and pills by an Aiken Regional nurse and was sedated at the time of the incident.

The suit states that Ms. White told Mr. Tufts to stop but he left only when a nurse walked back into the area. Although Ms. White immediately told the nurse what happened and asked that Mr. Tufts not be allowed to leave "or wash his hands," her request was refused, the suit states.

Instead the nurse called the hospital's risk manager who then, according to the suit, "informed (Ms. White) to go home and not to call law enforcement or an attorney."

Ms. White is seeking an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages.

A lawsuit represents only one point of view.