§5:49 Psychotherapist-Patient Sexual Abuse: Professional Negligence and
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
CAUSE OF ACTION FOR PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE
1. Plaintiff herein repeats and realleges as though fully set forth at length each and every paragraph of
this Complaint, except for the paragraphs which are inconsistent with a cause of action for medical
2. In approximately December 1990, and subsequently until the present, plaintiff suffered, and still
suffers, from mental illness and/or emotional problems. She sought treatment for childhood, family and
adult-life problems. Plaintiff employed defendants, and each of them, to care for her and treat her and do all
things necessary in her care and treatment.
3. When plaintiff began her treatment/relationship with defendant, she described to him a number of
problems which he knew, by education and training, made her vulnerable and susceptible to further
emotional injury. Her mother’s suicide had occurred while she was still a child, she had a difficult
adjustment to a stepmother, and was experiencing numerous major changes in her adult life during the first
several months of therapy.
4. At such time, defendants, and each of them, undertook and agreed to diagnose and treat plaintiff’s
illnesses and emotional problems and to care for her and treat her, and do all things necessary and proper in
connection therewith, and the relationship of psychotherapist-and-patient was then and there established
between said defendants and plaintiff. This relationship of psychotherapist-and-patient continued through
approximately March 1995, and the acts hereinafter complained of were in the nature of continuing torts.
5. Commencing in approximately December 1990, and continuing thereafter until the relationship of
psychotherapist-and-patient was terminated, defendants, and each of them, so negligently and carelessly
treated, guided, counseled, diagnosed, supervised and cared for plaintiff so as to proximately cause
plaintiff’s mental condition to worsen. Such negligent and careless treatment included, but was not limited
a. Taking an inadequate history of plaintiff at the beginning of therapy;
b. Not attempting to treat plaintiff for her presenting problems, including the effects of her abusive
childhood, but rather, developing defendant’s own agenda for treatment;
c. Failing to properly monitor therapy during the course of treatment;
d. Fostering a dependency relationship in a patient who needed help with individuation;
e. Clouding and breaking down boundaries in a patient who should have been treated by the
establishment of firm boundaries which should have been maintained and controlled throughout the
f. Becoming too emotionally attached to plaintiff, thus losing objectivity and ability to diagnose and
treat plaintiff’s problems;
g. Over-complimenting plaintiff in an inappropriate manner;
h. Failing to assist plaintiff in integrating the abandoned child aspect of her psyche with her adult self;
i. Focusing most of plaintiff’s energy and attention on defendant instead of helping plaintiff integrate
into her family life, social life and career, which was disruptive to both her family life and career;
j. Relating an inappropriate amount of material about his own life to plaintiff;
k. Failing to focus adequately on plaintiff’s problems and social conduct, behavioral problems and
efforts to stabilize her life;
l. Failing to attempt to provide the patient with psychological insight regarding her problems,
providing inaccurate insights and making improper interpretations;
m. Failing to recognize that plaintiff’s presenting problems were serious emotional problems and,
instead, developing his own agenda which did not help plaintiff with her emotional and relationship
problems and, instead, aggravated those problems;
n. Taking an inappropriate amount of control over plaintiff’s life through various inappropriate
techniques utilized throughout therapy;
o. Entering into multiple non-sexual dual relationships with plaintiff, which were inappropriate under
p. Failing to refer plaintiff to therapy when plaintiff became uncontrollably regressed in therapy, and
the transference was completely out of control;
q. Failing to seek consultations in treating plaintiff;
r. Failing to seek psychiatric, psychological, and/or medical consultation for himself when he lost
s. Improperly prescribing medication for plaintiff and failing to monitor plaintiff for indications and
side effects of such medication;
t. Utilizing massive regression techniques which were not indicated for plaintiff given her pre-existing
life experiences and psychological condition;
u. Focusing on defendant’s own problems and life dilemmas in many therapy sessions instead of
focusing on plaintiff’s problems;
v. Encouraging plaintiff to comfort defendant and listen to defendant rather than the reverse;
w. Failing to properly terminate plaintiff’s therapy;
x. Abandonment of plaintiff;
y. Breaching confidences of other patients by telling plaintiff the names of other patients and details
about their lives which had the effect of traumatizing plaintiff herself because she did not have the
ability to process this secret, confidential information and made plaintiff fear that her own
confidences with defendant were being violated.
6. All of the above allegations, which are not meant to be exhaustive, are illustrative of defendant’s
inappropriate conduct, and constitute actions and omissions below the standard of care in the community.
Such actions and omissions exist wholly and separately from the inappropriate acts, sexual conduct, or
intentional torts alleged in other parts of this Complaint, and occurred both before and during the time of
the inappropriate sexual conduct otherwise alleged in the Complaint. If defendant never acted sexually
toward plaintiff and never performed the intentional misconduct hereinafter alleged, he would have still
violated the standard of care in his treatment of plaintiff as alleged.
7. As a proximate result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, as alleged above, plaintiff’s
mental condition worsened, causing plaintiff severe emotional distress, physical injury and permanent
8. As a proximate result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, as alleged above, plaintiff has
incurred and will incur in the future, medical and other related out-of-pocket expenses in a sum unknown at
this time. At the time of trial, plaintiff will seek damages for medical bills, past and future, and past and
future other related expenses according to proof at the time of trial.
9. As a proximate result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, as alleged above, plaintiff has
sustained and will sustain in the future, lost wages and loss of earning capacity in a sum unknown at this
time. At the time of trial, plaintiff will seek damages for past and future lost wages and loss of earning
capacity according to proof at the time of trial.
10. As a proximate result of the conduct of defendants, and each of them, as alleged above, plaintiff has
sustained and will in the future sustain, physical, mental and emotional pain, suffering and distress, all to
her general damage in a sum to be proved at the time of trial.
CAUSE OF ACTION FOR INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS
1. Plaintiff herein repeats and re-alleges as though fully set forth at length each and every paragraph of
this Complaint, except for the paragraphs that are inconsistent with a cause of action for intentional
infliction of emotional distress.
2. Commencing in approximately 1990 and continuing thereafter throughout the treatment period,
defendant used his ability, knowledge and background as a psychotherapist to sexually abuse plaintiff and
continue the abuse thereafter knowing that plaintiff had the type of background and mental illness to make
her extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse. Defendant deliberately abused plaintiff by words and actions and
by abuse of the transference phenomenon with a deliberate course of conduct on his part toward plaintiff so
as to cause plaintiff to succumb to his sexual abuse. In addition to sexually abusing plaintiff, defendant
sexualized and eroticized the therapy for his advantage and to satisfy his own needs and to plaintiff’s
detriment. Further, defendant utilized his influence and control of plaintiff to cause her to perform work for
him and enter into property deals with him.
3. Defendant’s conduct in this respect was intentional, malicious and despicable and done for the
purpose of causing plaintiff to suffer humiliation, mental anguish and severe emotional distress.
4. The despicable conduct of defendant as alleged above was done with the intent to cause injury to
plaintiff and was done willfully with a conscious disregard for the rights of plaintiff.
5. Defendant’s conduct in this respect did not arise out of the treatment relationship but, rather, existed
wholly and separately from the treatment relationship. The sexual misconduct as described above was not
part of therapy.
The two sample causes of action above represent only two of the ten or more causes of action typically
pleaded in a psychotherapist/patient sexual abuse case. These two causes of action are included because
they demonstrate a way in which plaintiff attorney can attempt to plead causes of action for both negligent
and intentional misconduct with completely separate facts supporting each allegation.
Although many insurance carriers attempt to exclude or limit damages flowing from the sexual abuse of
patients by professionals, plaintiff’s chance of obtaining a recovery from a professional malpractice
insurance carrier should be increased by a cause of action for negligence with allegations completely
separable from the allegations of sexual and intentional misconduct that may be contained in other causes
of action in the complaint. When insurance coverage becomes an issue, plaintiff should be able to take the
position that, at the very least, defendant’s insurance policy should provide coverage for damages arising
out of defendant’s strictly negligent misconduct.
The intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action should serve to increase defendant’s
personal risk in a case by exposing defendant to an award of damages flowing from uninsurable
intentional misconduct and/or punitive damages. Thus, these causes of action together are aimed at
simultaneously maximizing exposure to defendant and defendant’s insurance company.
In California (and other states that limit a plaintiff’s damage recovery in a medical negligence case) the
allegations of intentional misconduct also may increase the chances of the medical negligence damage
limitations not applying to the intentional misconduct causes of action. [Waters v. Bourhis, 40 Cal.3d 424,
220 Cal. Rptr. 666 (1985) (case about the recovery of attorney fees; however, the court discusses why the
claim against the original tortfeasor may not fall under the limitations on recovery set for medical
malpractice professional negligence claims because plaintiff claimed both negligence and intentional