New civil complaints filed against the Army amid doctor’s sexual assault case

Four accusers of a military doctor at the center of a massive sexual abuse prosecution say they were “severely and irreparably harmed” by the Army and the Defense Department whose negligence failed to protect them from abuse, according to new federal civil complaints filed Tuesday.

The physician, Maj. Michael Stockin, is facing charges from Army prosecutors who allege the misconduct occurred under the guise of treatment, based on accusations from 41 male patients. The charges include 47 counts of abusive sexual contact and five counts of indecent viewing under the military code of justice, according to the Army Office of Special Trial Counsel, which is prosecuting the case. 

CBS News has spoken with five accusers who each described a similar pattern. During appointments at the center’s pain management clinic, Stockin, when left alone with patients, would instruct them to undress, and proceed to examine their lower body and touch them inappropriately, according to the alleged victims. 

While the criminal case plays out, the Army is also contending with civil complaints like these brought by accusers who filed under the Federal Torts Claims Act, which allows individuals to bring claims against federal agencies for wrongs allegedly committed by personnel of that agency. The four new claims, reviewed by CBS News, are the first step toward filing a lawsuit for monetary damages. 

“A sexual abuse scandal of this magnitude could only happen if the Army was negligent,” said an attorney representing the accusers, Christine Dunn, in a statement. 

Dunn represents eleven former patients, including the four who filed Tuesday, who are seeking $5 million in damages for what they say was the Army’s negligence in “hiring, supervising, and retaining Dr. Stockin, and negligently failing to institute adequate policies and procedures to reasonably ensure [their] safety.” 

Seven other complaints she previously filed with her colleagues at the law firm Sanford Heisler Sharp are now under investigation by the Army, according to Dunn.

In each of the four new complaints, the former patients, two of whom are still active duty service members, say they are “traumatized” by their experience with Stockin.

“The examination felt wrong to me, and I felt violated and embarrassed. It did not seem to me that Dr. Stockin had a valid medical reason for touching my penis,” one of the unidentified former patients claimed. 

Only one of the four former patients has had their accusations included in the Army’s criminal case according to Dunn, illuminating advocates’ concern that there may be more potential victims out there.

“The massive number of patients who allege they were sexually abused by Dr. Stockin is shocking,” Dunn said. “I continue to get calls from victims with remarkably similar stories about how they were sexually violated by Dr. Stockin.”

In another complaint reviewed by CBS News, a former patient who was seeking treatment for back pain claimed Stockin abused him about a half a dozen times.

“This experience has caused me pain and suffering,” he added. “I feel like less of a man. I have overwhelming feelings of fear and shame. I no longer feel comfortable with male doctors. I question my sexuality as a man.”

Another former patient who sought treatment for back pain and migraines  alleges he was abused by Stockin on two occasions and told several people about what happened, including a nurse’s aide, his sergeant major, and other medical professionals, according to the claim. However, no formal complaints were ever filed, according to Dunn.

Stockin, an anesthesiologist working at the pain management clinic at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington state, has been suspended from patient care since the Army began investigating the alleged conduct. 

Under current law, servicemembers injured while on active duty are unable to sue the military. However, a 2022 ruling in the 9th Circuit opened the door for survivors after the court found that sexual assault was not “incident to military service.”

The Army has six months to review the claims. Dunn has not heard back on the seven other claims she has previously filed on behalf of Stockin’s accusers. An Army spokesperson declined to comment.

Stockin has not yet entered a plea in his criminal case but has previously maintained his innocence through his attorneys. While his lawyer did not immediately return request for comment, Robert Capovilla, an attorney for Stockin, has previously urged the public to withhold judgment until the case is heard, saying, “We intend to fight against every single allegation until the jury renders their verdict.”

After Stockin’s first appearance in court last month, prosecutors said that they dropped a count of abusive sexual contact “after ongoing review of the evidence.”

Dunn added, “My clients hope that Dr. Stockin is held accountable in the criminal proceedings. But it is equally important that the Army be held accountable for allowing this harm to occur and to ensure that this never happens again.”

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