Senior Partner Michael Sonkin recently obtained a defense verdict in New York County Supreme Court following a three-week trial in a case involving allegations of repeated sexual assaults and forced, coercive sex acts over a twenty-month period by a physical medicine and rehabilitation medicine physician against his patient. It was alleged by the plaintiff that her physician forcibly committed a sexual assault while in the midst of treatment, and that this was repeated 65 times over the course of the next twenty months with the physician allegedly using threats of termination of medical care, promises of assistance with the patient’s on-going custody and family court proceedings, and financial enticements to continue the relationship. There were numerous in limine motions that resulted in the preclusion of several items of evidence including non-conclusive DNA test results, non-authenticated and arguably incomplete audio tape recordings of sexual activities and conversations between plaintiff and defendant, a detailed diary purportedly maintained by the plaintiff, and correspondence purportedly written by the physician that falsely stated that the plaintiff was working for his practice.
At trial, the physician adamantly denied the allegations, including even a consensual sexual relationship, and only acknowledged the existence of a physician-patient relationship and a further personal relationship arising from their shared experiences as Chinese immigrants. Troubling to the defense, this personal relationship led the doctor to have many telephone conversations with the plaintiff, often at very late hours and for long periods of time, and also led him to co-sign an apartment lease with the plaintiff as the guarantor of her payments. The defense was able to demonstrate that the plaintiff had numerous credibility issues that included a highly inflammatory Bill of Particulars that the plaintiff attempted to walk back from at trial, the lack of reporting of the doctor’s alleged behavior to the authorities or the plaintiff’s social worker who she was actively seeing at the time, continued contacts in many forms with the defendant despite allegedly on-going sexual assaults and inappropriate behavior, and a pattern of similar behavior in the plaintiff’s past that was documented by her own internet postings of failed relationships with subsequent accusations of rape which was introduced and shown to the jury. Following a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for approximately 90 minutes before returning a unanimous verdict finding no departures against the doctor. Mr. Sonkin was assisted in the defense of this case by partners Barbara Goldberg and Greg Radomisli, and associate Lynn Hsieh.