A Gold Coast medical specialist who made a proposition to a patient that she should become his mistress has been ordered to pay compensation for the resulting psychiatric injury and humiliation.
Former N.Z. fashion model Faye Grieve laughed off the doctor’s advances even after he made it clear the arrangement would come with a condo, a car and regular nights out.
She observed that the specialist’s wife would probably think ill of such a tryst and made it clear she was happily married.
About 12 months later in April 2007, the dermatologist – Dr Rene Gomez – asked her to strip down to a gown for a full body examination so he could inspect other parts of her body.
Five months later Grieve reported to another skin doctor that Gomez had – in that examination – stroked the inside of her thighs, “like a husband would do in foreplay” and briefly massaged her breasts and buttocks.
That skin doctor advised her to contact the medical board and police to report Gomez.
Apprehensive of the distress a complaint against Dr Gomez would bring to her, she made no contact with the medical board until five years later.
Gomez did not file any opposition to Grieve’s civil damages claim when it was eventually filed in 2016.
Neither did he plead any limitation defence nor did he oppose her application in August 2017 for a “freezing order” to prevent the disposal of his Gold Coast home so that it would remain available to meet the proceeds of the final damages order.
When the case came before Judge Catherine Muir in Southport’s District Court for assessment of damages, Gomez appeared without legal representation only to contend that the $150k damages sought by his former patient, was out of proportion to the events that had occurred.
Judge Muir was concerned at the lack of precise detail in the plaintiff’s affidavit, of the physical examination episode when the assaults were alleged to have occurred.
She nevertheless accepted the truth of the events and that Grieve felt immediate disgust and humiliation, and taken to the shower scrubbing herself, to be found there by her husband, shivering, several hours later.
Her honour took the view however, that the 70-yr-old’s damages ask was “unreasonably high”.
Of the $43k eventually awarded, a meagre $11k was – due to the application of the Civil Liability Act scale – attributable to psychiatric injury.
The $50k claim for aggravating, insulting and humiliating conduct was – given Gomez had not challenged or delayed the proceedings – pared back to just $15k.
And the ask for exemplary damages – contended to be appropriate given that no criminal prosecution had occurred – was rejected because the court considered no additional “punishment” was required.
Following a period of suspension, Dr Gomez was permanently banned from consulting female patients. Judge Muir noted in her judgement that because of his age it was unlikely he was any longer practising medicine. Find more information and similar cases on how medical negligence lawyers have faced recently.