Fourth District Judge Robert C. Lunnen dismissed the sexual assault lawsuit filed by 94 women against OB-GYN Dr. David Broadbent and the plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling.
The judge signed the dismissal order on Sept. 24 and filed it with the court on Sept. 27.
The judge’s ruling stated the Court dismissed the case because the actions occurred while Dr. Broadbent was providing “health care” to the plaintiffs and any legal action against a health care provider falls under a medical malpractice process, according to Utah Code.
This means the 4th District Court lacks jurisdiction and therefore, the judge was forced to dismiss the lawsuit even though he wrote in the dismissal order that the allegations cast Broadbent “in a most egregious light” and caused the Court “repugnance” and “anger.”
The judge concluded the plaintiffs could not pursue their civil sexual assault and sexual battery claims but rather had to comply with the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act profiling requirements.
This means that before filing a lawsuit, the plaintiffs would have to file an action against Dr. Broadbent with the Utah Health Department of Occupational and Professional Licensing and participate in a pre-litigation review.
“I think the Court was wrong, I think even under the law we currently have, sexual abuse should not fall under the health care malpractice,” plaintiffs’ attorney Adam Sorenson said.
According to court documents, the women accused Dr. Broadbent of intentional sexual misconduct by way of improper touching of female breasts, vaginal and rectal areas during medical examinations, predominantly at Dr. Broadbent’s University Avenue office in Provo.
Court documents also say the improper conduct occurred during purported medical examinations at other locations including, “medical facilities owned by Intermountain and MountainStar where Dr. Broadbent worked.”
According to court documents, Dr. Broadbent was also accused of improperly using a swab inside the vaginal area, as well as improperly using a speculum to, essentially, shield inappropriate sexual contact from view. In addition, many women complained of insensitive, offensive and inappropriate remarks Dr. Broadbent allegedly made during appointments or during time spent with Dr. Broadbent.
The complaint detailed that many of Dr. Broadbent’s patients were college students in Provo who sought medical exams prior to getting married or during pregnancy.
Intermountain Healthcare and MountainStar Healthcare were sued in the same lawsuit for negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress, because some of the allegations were around Dr. Broadbent’s actions while he was providing care at their facilities.
“When the hospital learned of this lawsuit, Dr. Broadbent’s hospital staff privileges were immediately suspended and then terminated. We take these allegations very seriously and are committed to ensuring the safety of our patients,” Intermountain Healthcare Spokesperson Lance Madigan sent in a statement to The Daily Universe back in February 2022, when the case was first filed.
“Dr. Broadbent is an independent physician and has never been an employee of Utah Valley Hospital. Nearly all of the alleged incidents set forth in the lawsuit occurred at Dr. Broadbent’s office. His medical office is not located at the hospital,” the statement said.
Brittany Glas, MountainStar Healthcare’s spokesperson, said in a new statement to The Daily Universe that they continue to offer their sympathy and support to any individuals who may have experienced the alleged behavior at the physician’s private clinic in Provo.
“To our knowledge, there were no allegations of inappropriate conduct reported to our facility regarding this physician, and as such our position since this lawsuit was filed has been that we were inappropriately named in the suit,” MountainStar’s statement said. “Like hundreds of other physicians who practice privately in our community, this physician is not employed by any MountainStar hospital, and he is not currently authorized to see patients at our facility.”
The judge’s ruling: medical malpractice and lack of jurisdiction
The judge said it was an understatement to refer to the events as appalling and that Dr. Broadbent’s treatment of his patients is “insensitive, disrespectful and degrading.” However, he added his ruling could not be decided “based on the Court’s repugnance, anger or other equally justifiable reactions.”
“No one was arguing that he didn’t do this,” Sorenson said. “They weren’t saying the allegations were wrong, they were just saying they were under the malpractice act.”
According to court documents, Dr. Broadbent’s defense argued in their motions to dismiss that the plaintiffs’ allegations form a “medical malpractice action” that arose out of alleged incidents that occurred while plaintiffs were receiving medical care from Dr. Broadbent.
“Defendants further argue that, because Plaintiffs’ action is a medical malpractice action, Plaintiffs must comply with the statutory prerequisites for commencing a medical malpractice action as outlined in the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act,” court documents say.
To this, the plaintiffs rebutted that the defendant’s “arguments fail because the allegations and claims in the Amended Complaint” relate to and worse out of sexual abuse, and sexual abuse is not health care,” according to court documents.
In its dismissal order, the Court concluded that Dr. Broadbent’s alleged misconduct must be remedied through a malpractice process because all alleged misconduct occurred within the confines of a medical facility where Dr. Broadbent worked, and the plaintiffs were seen by him for scheduled appointments to receive medical advice and treatment related to obstetrics.
“Whether a plaintiff visited an Intermountain facility, MountainStar facility or Dr. Broadbent’s office, plaintiffs were patients when they saw Dr. Broadbent for medical advice and treatment related to obstetrics,” court documents say.
“In considering the allegations and because OB-GYNs commonly examine sensitive, otherwise private areas of a woman’s person, including the pelvic area generally, the vaginal area, and breasts, the Court opines that the alleged misconduct occurred in the course of obstetrical treatment,” the court documents say.
“It’s not health care even if it’s in a doctor’s office, it doesn’t matter if it’s an OB-GYN in an office and the patient comes in for treatment,” Sorenson said.
Sorenson said he plans to appeal the Court’s ruling because he still believes there is a strong case for sexual abuse. However, he said in case they lost the appeal, he would file the case under medical malpractice.
According to Sorenson, filing the case under medical malpractice would mean losing three-fourths of the plaintiffs they have, because of the statute of limitations.
The Utah statute of limitations, which is the time allowed after an offense or crime for the victim to file a court case, dictates that “forcible sexual abuse shall be commenced within eight years after the offense is committed, if within four years after its commission the offense is reporter to a law enforcement agency.”
According to Sorenson, many of the sexual abuse allegations of which the plaintiffs are accusing Dr. Broadbent happened more than four years ago, meaning that their cases could not be included in the case.
“Having less people in the suit does not necessarily affect the merits of the clients, though less people would be named in the case,” Sorenson said. “The more people the better because it reemphasizes how bad the acts were, but we are confident in our case whether we have one person, or 20 or 100.”
Sorenson said the plaintiffs plan to appeal the judge’s decision and they do not believe the lawsuit needs to be filed under medical malpractice.
“We have a few options and one is to appeal the judge’s ruling,” Sorenson said. “I don’t think we necessarily have to have stronger arguments because we have 94 women who have talked about how they were sexually abused.”
Sorenson said he has been in communication with the plaintiffs after the judge’s ruling.
“They’re extremely frustrated and disappointed,” Sorenson said. “However, the Court kind of said in the May hearing that he was going to rule against this so they kind of expected it.”
However, Sorenson said the plaintiffs are strong and are willing to keep fighting.
“It’s really hard for them, to have come forward and for their first experience with the court system to be being told ‘no,’ that the abuse they endured was health care,” Sorenson said.
Dr. Broadbent’s license to practice medicine is currently on hold while the investigations continue. He handed it over voluntarily to the Utah Division of Professional Licensing after the division and Provo Police Department received complaints about alleged actions between 1995 and 2019.
“He handed his medical license over through an agreement between him and the State Department of Professional Licensing,” Sorenson said. “They didn’t make any findings that he was in the wrong or anything but he handed it voluntarily while the criminal investigations are pending.”
The Daily Universe reached out multiple times to representatives for Dr. Broadbent for comment but received no reply.