NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. -- A New Kent County children’s hospital at the center of a Virginia State Police investigation is being sued for $127 million.
“The crux of this lawsuit is an abuse of power. It’s abuse of position, it’s abuse of your medical license and it’s an abuse of children both physical and sexual, and that starts at the top with Dr. Davidow the Medical Director, and it filtered all the way through the organization at Cumberland and at UHS,” said attorney Kevin Biniazan.
In Richmond Circuit Court Tuesday morning, the law firm of Breit Cantor filed the multi-million dollar lawsuit against the Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescence, its parent company Universal Health Services, its former Medical Director Dr. Daniel Davidow, and Herschel “Mickey” Harden, a former psychotherapist indicted in February on charges he sexually abused a former female patient. Twenty former patients as young as nine are listed in the complaint.
Davidow was Medical Director at the facility from 1996 until he left in February when a CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigation brought to light allegations of abuse and neglect at the New Kent facility.
“We have allegations in our complaint that go as far back as 2008,” said Biniazan.
The suit alleges Dr. Davidow would take the femoral pulse of female patients and “place his hand beneath the minor patient’s undergarments and sexually abuse the minor patient by intentionally touching the minor patient’s intimate body parts.”
“Dr. Davidow wasn’t taking the femoral pulse of male patients, he wasn’t taking the femoral pulse of patients when their parents were in the room, he was only taking the femoral pulse of patients when they were alone when they didn’t have somebody there to speak for them and when they are the most vulnerable,” said Biniazan.
Twelve of Davidow’s former female patients as young as 12 years old allege that the pediatrician, who currently has an inactive medical license, sexually abused them. Some patients allege the sexual abuse happened on multiple occasions and one patient also alleges he struck “her with a belt if she would not ‘behave.’”
The suit states “defendants knew or should have known Davidow was sexually abusing patients on a week-to week basis, but did not report it to the proper authorities on every occasion.”
“We hope the message is not to turn a blind eye. We hope the message is where’s there’s smoke there’s fire and if there are children crying out for help repeatedly over years maybe we should band together to do something about it rather than try to silo it off and figure out what our individual roles are,” said Biniazan.
The complaint points out in April 2017, Dr. Davidow was under investigation by the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office.
According to a police report dated April 13, 2017, five female patients alleged they were “inappropriately touched by Davidow.”
It states the allegations came out in a group therapy session led by an intern when the girls discussed Davidow’s “magical touch” to their intimate parts. The report also states the girls advised the graduate student that "Dr. Davidow would check their pulse under their breasts and would play with their hair during the physical, twirling it around his fingers.”
However, their case managers told investigators they did not observe anything they felt was inappropriate during the exams.
But a psychotherapist at the facility did report to investigators that after polling his patients, “only one out of the approximate 12 patients present reported no inappropriate contact by Dr. Davidow.” He also told investigators, that his boys’ group reported that Dr. Davidow took their pulse on their wrists.
Davidow was interviewed by the New Kent Sheriff’s Office and the New Kent Department of Child Protective Services on May 4, 2017.
The report states:
“Dr. Davidow explains that during his exams he is rating the patient on the ‘Tanner’ scale which is based on certain developmental characteristics of breasts genitals and pubic hair, which is also why he checks the femoral pulse. While checking the femoral pulse on both sides, he advised he can also feel for the pubic hair development in order for him to scale the patient.”
Following that interview, the case was ruled unfounded.
“Dr. Davidow provides the justification that the purpose of it is to determine the progression of puberty in some of the patients. Puberty doesn’t change rapidly week to week. It’s unfathomable and completely without any real reason that this should happen eight to 10 times which is what we allege in the complaint,” said Biniazan.
“The system failed these children by not giving them a voice... by falling through the crack between police officers and departments and different agencies who point the finger somewhere else and there’s no-one to stand up for them,” Biniazan added.
Like “MJM” as she’s listed in the complaint, who was under Dr. Davidow’s care in 2012.
She was 13 years old when her mom says she was admitted to Cumberland Hospital for an eating disorder and suicidal behavior and she was discharged a "broken child."
“He checked her pulse in her private area is what she had told us,” said MJM’s mom.
“As a parent, hearing those words from your daughter about someone you trusted, try to describe what that feels like,” asked CBS 6 Investigative Reporter Laura French.
“Ugh, it’s pretty gut wrenching because I didn’t send her down there for that,” she responded. "I sent her down there to get help and you were the only place I was told in this entire East Coast that could help her with her eating disorder, self harm, anxiety depression and now you have made this far worse. She has carried this for seven years.”
MJM’s mother says that’s not all the now institutionalized 22-year-old carries with her as the result of her stay at Cumberland.
“There was an autistic boy who entered her room. He touched her inappropriately under her shirt and she had to fend him off because nobody came to her aid and she said it was pretty rough too. It was not easy for her to get him out of her room and when she complained to them nothing happened,” said MJM's mom.
Mom made a Facebook post September 17, 2012 stating inappropriate touching is never okay no matter what one’s mental capacity is. She says that’s how the hospital justified the alleged abuse.
“Their unwillingness to properly staff, properly train, properly ensure that these children are protected when they’re at the facility and frankly likely other facilities as well is what ultimately causes abuse,” said Biniazan. “Cumberland Hospital is playing a money game. They’re moving heads around in different beds, and they’re trying to do that to increase their profits knowing full well that they don’t have the proper license, they don’t have the proper staff, and they don’t have the proper resources to care for the children that are in their own facility.”
The suit claims “MJM” would be sexually abused again by the same patient and was also the victim of physical abuse along with multiple other children as young as nine who claim they too were victims at the hands of other patients and staff.
This includes former Cumberland Psychotherapist Herschel “Mickey” Harden who is scheduled to stand trial in February for sexually assaulting a former female patient.
“It wasn’t just sexual assault with Mickey Harden. It was physical abuse and poor decision making,” said Biniazan.
Then 11-year-old “HGB,” alleges Harden “physically battered” him by smacking him across the face with an open palm causing him to “fall on the floor” and be injured. “HGB” also alleges he was told by a nurse “it will be fine” in response to reporting being sexually abused in his room by an older resident.
“There’s nothing that can replace that innocence in a child,” said Biniazan. “But, ultimately if we’re hoping for change, if we’re hoping for companies like UHS and Cumberland to actually make decisions that are better for the children in their care, we need to make it hurt where it matters to them most, and clearly for Cumberland and UHS that’s in their pocketbook, and so hopefully by holding them accountable we’ll create change so nobody else will have to sue for something like this ever again.”
“What you took away from these kids and what you did to the families is irreplaceable,” said MJM’s mother. “There’s no amount of money that can give us our life back, give us our daughter back. It’s comparable to death for so many parents and we know that’s final!”
The accusations in the lawsuit must be proven in court, and the defendants will have an opportunity to defend themselves.
CBS 6 has reached out to the defendants in this case for comment and are waiting to hear back.
Next Tuesday, CBS 6 travels to Florida.
“He had me slide down my pants and he grabbed my underwear and pulled them down,” said alleged Davidow victim KMJ. “I was obviously very tense because it was a very uncomfortable situation and he was like just relax, just relax and he still did not have gloves on.”
“What did it make you feel like?” asked CBS 6 Investigative Reporter Laura French.
“Like a prisoner in my own body,” she replied.
“He took a lot of innocence I still had as a teenage girl and he took my ability to function normal for a very long time.”
“What do you want to see happen?” asked French.
“I want to see him locked up and him never to be able to be around not only a child, but be around no-one not able to hurt anyone ever again physically, mentally, sexually ever!”
Laura French’s Problem Solver’s Investigation next Tuesday at 11 on CBS 6.
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