An alleged victim of a male nurse charged with sexually assaulting her and two other women on separate occasions at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo filed a lawsuit Thursday against the defendant and the healthcare provider.
Zoe Leigh Cooksey, who filed the suit in Orange County Superior Court, told reporters at a news conference at the hospital Thursday morning that she went to the hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in a car accident and “was vulnerable and he took advantage of me and of his position of authority.”
“During the pandemic, when we depended most on our first responders, I was completely betrayed by Mission Hospital and Paul Miller,” she alleged. “This has been one of the worst experiences of my life and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be the same again, but I am coming forward today to give a voice to the victims of sexual assault, and to let others know that it’s OK to stand up and share your story.”
Her lawsuit alleges that hospital officials were aware of Paul Alden Miller’s “propensities toward sexual and narcotic-based misconduct by way of prior incidents of wrongdoing and failed” to fire him.
Miller, 56, of San Clemente, is charged with three felony counts of sexual battery involving an unconscious person, three misdemeanor counts of touching an intimate part of another person and one misdemeanor count of inflicting injury on an elder adult, according to court records. He is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 28 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
Cooksey, 22, came forward in March to allege that Miller assaulted her in the hospital’s emergency room.
Two other women, ages 68 and 56, made similar allegations in April and this month, respectively, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Todd Hylton.
The attacks are alleged to have occurred on March 19, March 31 and April 9, according to court records.
Miller worked at the hospital from January 2017 through April, and at El Centro Regional Medical Center in El Centro from January 2016 through January 2017, Hylton said. He worked at Sharp Hospital in Chula Vista from December 2014 through May 2015, the sergeant said.
According to her lawsuit, Cooksey and her husband got into a car accident March 28, and the next day she went to the emergency room at Mission Hospital, complaining of abdominal pain and bruising. She says she was given some pain medication and advised to come back if her symptoms did not improve.
When she suffered “bloody stool and acute dizziness,” she returned to the emergency room on March 31, according to the lawsuit.
Cooksey alleges that Miller asked her four times if she needed help changing into a hospital gown, but she declined each time. Miller allegedly said he would need to insert a catheter, so he removed her underwear and attempted to put in the device “for several minutes,” the lawsuit alleges.
When Cookey said it was uncomfortable, “Miller rubbed her vagina in a sexual manner and asked if that felt good,” the lawsuit alleges. She “repeatedly” told him to stop and asked why what he was doing was necessary, according to her court papers, which say Miller removed the catheter after several minutes.
Her mother arrived a short time later and Miller then injected morphine into the plaintiff, who was unable to tell her mother what happened because she quickly fell under the effects of the narcotic, according to the lawsuit.
A chest X-ray was done on the patient and then she was taken by another nurse for a CT scan, according to her court papers, which allege Miller asked Cooksey’s mother if she wanted to lie down and that he could “give her something to relax,” but she declined.
Miller gave Cooksey another dose of morphine before she left, according to the lawsuit, which says Miller advised the woman’s mother to tell her daughter not to take the pain medication prescribed to her that evening because of the amount of morphine he had given her.
Cooksey reported what allegedly happened to sheriff’s deputies on April 1, according to the lawsuit, which alleges professional negligence, medical battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, negligent supervision, hiring, retention, gender violence and recklessness-gross negligence.
“After months of depression, stress, and anxiety, I am only now able to talk about what happened to me,” Cooksey said in a statement. “Coming forward today is as much about healing and shedding the secrecy and shame associated with sexual assault as it is about empowering other victims to speak out. Dealing with the deep fear I now harbor for medical professionals and physical closeness, even for those I love, is something no one should have to go through alone. If Paul Miller assaulted you I invite you to be brave, stand with me and together we will hold him accountable for what he did and what this hospital allowed him to do to each of us.”
Providence officials said in a statement that Miller was taken off the job as soon as they were made aware of the first incident.
“Providing safe, high-quality care is our utmost priority and we take patient complaints very seriously,” the statement said.
“As soon as hospital leadership received the first patient complaint, the hospital took prompt action and immediately placed the caregiver on administrative leave pending a full investigation.
While the sequence of events reported by O.C. Sheriff may reflect when the incidents occurred, it doesn’t accurately reflect when the incidents were reported to the hospital and therefore when the caregiver was placed on leave.
The caregiver has not worked at Providence Mission since the hospital learned of the first incident. Providence Mission Hospital strictly adhered to its policies and protocols as soon as we received this complaint.
The hospital investigation resulted in prompt notification to the authorities and has been in the hands of the District Attorney’s Office. We are fully cooperating with the police investigation.
Providence Mission is a trusted health care partner, and is committed to providing high-quality, compassionate and safe care to those we serve.
We have a zero tolerance for behavior that does not align with our Mission and values.
We cherish the trust that our patients have in our caregivers and physicians. The possibility that one of our caregivers could have caused the slightest harm to a patient is deeply concerning.”
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