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Nurse Sues Prominent Ophthalmologist for Assault Over Violent Incident Caught on Security Camera

A renowned refractive surgeon allegedly became infuriated when the ASC's charge nurse asked if he was nearly done his case because his block time was nearly finished.

Published: December 19, 2017

Kerry Kourosh Assil, MD

A California nurse is suing a prominent Los Angeles-based ophthalmologist over an assault that occurred just outside of the OR. The incident, caught on security camera, allegedly shows Kerry Kourosh Assil, MD, regarded as one of the world's foremost experts in refractive surgery, shoving Paula Rickey, RN, BSN, in the back of the head as she was leaving the OR.

The incident occurred 9:40 a.m. July 17 at the 90210 Surgery Medical Center in Beverly Hills, Calif., an affiliate of the renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The suit alleges that Dr. Assil was infuriated because Ms. Rickey asked if he was done with his current case because his block time was nearly over and the turnover team needed to ready the room for the next surgeon. The suit also alleges that Dr. Assil had it in for Ms. Rickey because she had spurned his sexual advances.

"Just outside of an operating room, unprovoked and without justification, in an abrupt fit of rage, Assil chased and then shoved Rickey, a petite woman, violently in the back of her head," states the complaint. "He then chased her further, seized her by the arm, and exclaimed, "'I know I can do this because I know you like the abuse.'"

Ms. Rickey, who was promoted to charge nurse at the ASC last year, says she was forced to resign after the incident. She tells Outpatient Surgery that although this was the first time Dr. Assil physically assaulted her, he had a history of being offensive toward employees. "He has made inappropriate comments or gestures in the past by trying to be funny," she says. "He has a long history of being socially awkward, and he translates his jokes by what he thinks would be funny and other people find offensive."

Ms. Rickey's complaint states that she believes Dr. Assil used his position of power as the medical director of the facility to his advantage, and that Dr. Assil had been involved in extra-marital affairs with other female employees at the surgical center. If female employees like her didn't succumb to his sexual advances, they were allegedly punished.

"Assil has manifested a classic "'God complex' that characterizes some arrogant physicians in positions of authority," states the complaint.

After the incident, Ms. Rickey reported the assault to her direct supervisor and her supervisor's supervisor, but received little reaction.

"I thought the situation would be handled, but it wasn't," she says. "I sat for over a month tip-toeing around Dr. Assil's schedule, fearful of seeing him, working opposite centers and hours. It became extremely uncomfortable."

Although the facility's board opened up an investigation into the incident, Ms. Rickey says the board tried to intimidate her by asking to do an interview by herself without a witness.

"I was afraid for my safety considering my perpetrator continued to work unscathed," she says. Eventually, her supervisor told her that she didn't know how to keep Ms. Rickey safe aside from having her stay home. When Ms. Rickey asked how she would be paid, her supervisor told her to use vacation time. "I knew then this situation would be handled poorly, and I retained counsel," she says.

Ms. Rickey filed her complaint against Dr. Assil and several of the surgery centers he was affiliated with, along with Cedars-Sinai Health System and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, last week, requesting damages in excess of $3 million. She is suing for several counts, including battery, assault, sexual harassment and discrimination, the failure to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination, and the failure to remedy and correct sex discrimination and harassment.

"Assil and the other defendants have willfully disregarded Rickey's rights to a safe workplace free of discrimination, harassment and violence," states the complaint. "They have done so despite conclusive video evidence that leaves no doubt about Assil's grave misconduct."

Dr. Assil did not respond to requests for comment. Cedars-Sinai Health System released a statement:

"The safety and wellness of patients and employees, including those at our affiliates, is paramount to Cedars-Sinai and aligned with our values. We take great care to protect Cedars-Sinai employees as they do their work, and that means we take complaints seriously, investigate them thoroughly and act promptly."

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Brielle Gregory


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