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Woman Alleges Assault

June 26, 1999

A Hialeah woman has sued Palmetto General Hospital, alleging an employee sexually assaulted her while she was treated for an injury at the hospital.

Idalbys Herrera, 31, says the man assaulted her and exposed himself in her hospital room.

The accused employee has not been charged criminally and is not identified in the lawsuit. The employee, a laboratory technician, no longer works for the hospital. It is not known whether he resigned or was terminated and why.

Palmetto General spokeswoman Vilma Cestino confirmed that the allegation had been reported last year and that Hialeah Police investigated.

“We notified and cooperated with all appropriate authorities, and it is our understanding that no charges will be filed as a result of the patient’s allegation,” Cestino said.

Police investigators could not be reached by telephone Friday afternoon.

Herrera has consented to having her name in the newspaper and in court documents because she said she hopes other victims also will come forward. Her husband, Hector Herrera, also a plaintiff because “he has lost the services and consortium of his wife,” states the suit, which was filed June 15.

According to Herrera, she checked into the Hialeah hospital in December after injuring her head while she took a shower at home.

The incident happened Dec. 14 when a male laboratory technician entered the room while she dozed, Herrera said. Herrera had seen the man only once before when he and another technician drew her roommate’s blood.

“I jumped up because I was asleep,” Herrera said. “I saw this guy and pushed him away with my right hand, breaking my IV and sending fluid one way and blood the other.

“I was really scared, I didn’t worry about my arm,” Herrera said. “When I saw him with his thing out, I freaked and panicked.”

He zipped up his pants, she said, and threatened her not to tell anyone.

“He said, ‘Don’t tell anyone or you’ll be sorry about it,'” she said. Herrera said the police called her a liar.

According to the police report, written by Hialeah Detective Orlando Rodriguez, the suspect said Herrera flirted with him, asked him for his beeper number and called the pager.

The suspect told the police he went to her room, turned the on the lights and noticed the other patient was not in her bed. He told police he then left because he thought Herrera was crazy, but the report doesn’t elaborate.

Two hospital employees told the detective they saw Herrera and the suspect flirting with each other. They said they did not know the suspect entered the room.

The police report also says Herrera was checked by physicians at the Rape Treatment Center, but the examination report showed no signs of trauma to her vagina.

Herrera’s attorney, Spencer Aronfeld, said that while police may not have enough evidence for an arrest, a civil court does not need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil court only needs the greater weight of the evidence to tip the scales either for or against the plaintiff’s demand.

“We’re confident that a jury in this community can sort through the facts and evidence in this case and come up with a just resolution,” Aronfeld said. The hospital is negligent, Aronfeld said, because it hired the employee whose actions resulted in nHerrera’s mental anguish and other losses.

“Clearly, we think the evidence would suggest a verdict in the million-dollar range,” Aronfeld said.

Herald staff writer Fernando Almanzar contributed to this report.

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