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Aug. 10 — A neurosurgeon sexually harassed a surgical technologist by telling her she had a “tight ass” and asking whether she wanted to see his penis, an Oregon jury finds, awarding her about $1.4 million in damages, according to court documents ( H.K. v. Spine Surgery Ctr. of Eugene, LLC , Or. Cir. Ct., No. 15CV04913, verdict 8/9/16 ).
The Aug. 9 verdict's deterrent effect may be limited, Mark McDougal, an attorney for plaintiff Chere Bergstrom, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 10. “At hospitals, this kind of sexual misconduct by doctors toward staff is quite common,” McDougal said. “Nobody tells them what to do. They're their own bosses.”
Bergstrom said Glenn Keiper Jr. asked her during surgery if she knew how to have multiple orgasms. He said they “had 18 years of sexual tension and should just get down on the floor and take care of it,” according to the complaint.
McDougal said he thinks testimony by the witnesses that Keiper called on his behalf tipped the 12-member jury against him. “It was quite clear they didn’t want to be there,” McDougal said. The witnesses either worked for Keiper or had a professional relationship with him, McDougal said.
In a recorded deposition McDougal said was played for the jury, Keiper said he previously had been accused of sexual harassment. A medical assistant said he told her, “I want to ‘do you' from behind and break your pelvis (while pulling her hair from behind),” according to a record of a state employment civil rights agency's investigation.
After a four-day trial before Judge Suzanne Chanti in the Circuit Court of Oregon, the jury awarded $21,160 in economic damages, $615,000 in noneconomic damages and $800,000 in punitive damages for violations of Oregon's sex discrimination and tort laws. But this amount might be reduced, McDougal said.
A damages cap was passed 20 years ago that was struck down shortly thereafter, but reinstated as to public entities, McDougal said. McDougal said he's worried the cap may be applied to cases involving private entities, as well, however.
“We’re all in limbo as to whether there’s a $500,000 noneconomic damages cap,” McDougal said.
Keiper's attorney wasn't available to comment Aug. 10.
McDougal, Greg Kafoury and Jason Kafoury of Kafoury & McDougal in Portland, Ore., represented Bergstrom. Dennis Purcell of Arnold Gallagher P.C. in Eugene, Ore., represented Keiper.
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