SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawsuit filed against medical transport provider American Medical Response West in California court says the ambulance company’s lax hiring and oversight allowed a paramedic to sexually assault two women in their 80s while en route to a hospital.
The law firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy filed the suit last week in San Mateo County Superior Court. It also names American Medical Response, Inc., based in Colorado, as a defendant. AMR operates in most U.S. states.
Miguel Nieblas Ontiveros, 35, has pleaded not guilty in criminal court to two felony counts of forcible oral copulation.
Anne Marie Murphy, the lead attorney on the case, said the paramedic should never have been left alone with vulnerable patients, one of whom was allegedly assaulted in May of last year and the other in December.
“It’s a horrific situation. Our client is an 82-year-old Asian woman who was frail and she needed to be transported to a hospital,” she said. “Unfortunately, the paramedic in the back was a sexual predator.”
The woman, who is not named in the lawsuit, was assaulted while strapped to a gurney on her way to a hospital after falling at the assisted living home where she resides, according to the lawsuit. Her neck was also immobilized by a brace at the time.
The ambulance company reported the incident to the California Highway Patrol and put Ontiveros on unpaid leave after the allegations arose in December. The company also fired him after his arrest in April.
American Medical Response said it does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation. “The employee in question was terminated immediately upon his arrest. AMR is cooperating with law enforcement and the prosecutor,” according to a statement.
The lawsuit says AMR hired or retained Ontiveros despite a grand theft case filed in December 2020, stemming from his previous job with the South San Francisco Fire Department. He faces five counts of grand theft in a case that is pending.
According to the lawsuit, AMR also knew or should have known that Ontiveros was accused of assaulting another woman, who was 80, in May 2022.
The lawsuit alleges physical abuse of a dependent adult and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Ontiveros is being held in jail on $3 million bail. His attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.