Doctor accused of sexual abuse and trafficking may lead to lawsuits against Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital due to negligence in screening employees.
A Cherokee County doctor who is accused of sexual assault and human trafficking may not be the only one in hot water. In March 2023, Dr. Thomas Clayton was charged with 16 felony counts of sexual misconduct stemming from his contact with patients. At the time of the allegations, Clayton was employed by the Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Andrews, North Carolina. However, prior to working for Erlanger, Dr. Clayton’s was reprimanded by the state medical boards in both North Carolina and Florida.
As a result of Dr. Clayton prior misconduct, he was placed on probation for 5 years and only permitted to practice under the indirect supervision of a Board-approved physician, called a “monitor.” Other significant restrictions were placed on his ability to practice medicine. Ben Andreozzi, a leading attorney representing victims of sexual abuse, believes Dr. Clayton’s checkered past could be trouble for Erlanger Western North Carolina Hospital. “Hospitals systems like Erlanger have an obligation to properly screen and vet employees to ensure that the patients they serve are safe. When they needless place patients in harm’s way, those patients are able to file civil lawsuits against the hospital to recover for the damages they suffer.“
In recent years physician sexual abuse cases have resulted in significant settlements. For example, in 2021, the University of Southern California announced it will pay more that $1.1 billion to former patients of a gynecologist who was accused of sexual assault. In 2022, UCLA announced a $700 million settlement and Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York Presbyterian announced a $165 million in cases arising from doctor’s sexually abusing their patients.
Dr. Clayton’s medical board records reveal a history of over prescribing pain killers and addictive medications. “If [he] used the medications as an inducement or means to groom his victims, the hospital could face considerable liability,” Andreozzi added. “In my experience, jurors don’t have any sympathy when powerful organizations look the other way and fail to protect sexual abuse victims.”
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