A female patient who sued Saint Agnes Medical Center after a male nurse allegedly rubbed himself against her for sexual gratification has settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
The settlement was reached Tuesday morning moments before a civil trial in Fresno County Superior Court was about to start.
Fresno attorney Nicholas J.P. Wagner, who represented the patient, said the settlement puts Saint Agnes on notice it must do a better job of screening employees.
“It’s a matter of public safety,” he said. “If they see it comes with a monetary penalty, it might get people to do something more than lip service.”
In a statement, the hospital said there was no way of knowing the nurse had the potential to act in such a manner.
“We believe that settling the case was the right thing to do for the patient, and while we can’t take back what happened, we are grateful to have resolved this matter,” the hospital said.
In late December 2015, Bertha Solorio, now 38, of Fresno County had gall bladder surgery.
She went home after the surgery, but returned for an endoscopy in which a viewing instrument was placed down her esophagus.
As she was in the recovery room, the nurse had her straighten out her leg, according to court papers. The nurse then guided her feet onto his penis through his hospital scrubs. He then moved to her left side and placed her hand on his penis, court papers state.
Solorio was “horrified” by what the nurse did, but had a tube down her throat and could not cry out for help, said attorney Laura Brown, who worked with Wagner on the case.
6-month jail sentence
After the incident was reported, registered nurse Brent Jensen of Fresno was investigated by Fresno police and charges were filed against him.
On March 8, 2017, Jensen pleaded no contest to one count of sexual battery on an institutional victim. He was sentenced to a suspended four-year prison term and given six months in jail. His nursing license was revoked.
The lawsuit alleges the hospital knew or should have known Jensen was a threat to patients because he was investigated for two previous incidents, including one at Saint Agnes.
In May 2015, a female patient complained of inappropriate behavior, but the hospital did not believe the patient, Brown said.
And in 2007, before Jensen became a registered nurse., he was employed by Community Regional Medical Centers. A patient complained about him touching her breasts and police were notified, Brown said.
In court papers, Fresno attorney Michael Helsley, representing Saint Agnes, said the hospital was not negligent because it did a background check on Jensen when he was hired and he passed.
Regarding the incident in May, Fresno police investigated and “found the patient’s version of events was inconsistent” and “by the patient’s own admission, it found that no touching had occurred,” court papers say.
The amount of the settlement is confidential, Helsley said in court Tuesday. Additionally, Solorio agreed to make no public statements or post statements on social media.
Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold