Laborer claims visual sexual assault, personal injuries in suit against Ameren, others

Kelly Holleran Aug. 5, 2010, 7:23am

A woman has filed suit against her employer, one of her co-workers and a doctor after she says she was forced to undress in front of her co-worker while being examined at a doctor's office following a work-related injury.

Breeann Hedger claims she was working as an oiler for defendant Alberici on July 23, 2009, at defendant Ameren's plant in Coffeen when she fell on wooden mats.

Because of injuries Hedger sustained during her fall, Alberici instructed her to seek medical examination and treatment at defendant Midwest Occupational Medicine in Wood River, according to the complaint filed July 21 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Chuck Smick, safety officer for Alberici, accompanied Hedger to the doctor at Alberici's orders, the suit states. Once Hedger and Smick arrived at the doctor's office, Smick accompanied Hedger into an examination room where defendant Dr. Brian Ruiz examined Hedger, the complaint says.

"That while in the presence of Brian Ruiz and Chuck Smick, Plaintiff was ordered to disrobe in their presence, over Plaintiff's protest," the suit states. "That Brian Ruiz made no attempt to insure (sic) the privacy of the Plaintiff and made no attempt to exclude Chuck Smick from witnessing Plaintiff disrobe."

Throughout the exam and while Hedger undressed, Smick watched her, she claims.

"That as a result of the disrobing and medical examination of the Plaintiff, which was conducted without privacy and in the presence of Chuck Smick, the Plaintiff sustained humiliation, shame, privacy violations, a visual sexual assault, and severe emotional distress," the complaint says.

In addition, because of her fall, Hedger suffered severe and permanent injuries; experienced pain, suffering, permanent disfigurement and disability; and lost wages, according to the complaint. She also claims she sustained an impaired earning capacity and incurred medical costs.

Hedger alleges negligence against Ameren, saying she had previously complained about gaps between the wooden floor mats that caused her fall, but the company did nothing to correct the condition.

The remaining defendants -- Alberici, Smick, Ruiz, Midwest Occupational Medicine and Midwest President George Dirkers -- allegedly invaded Hedger's privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, participated in a visual sexual assault and caused a tortuous interference with Hedger's patient-physician privilege of confidentiality, according to the complaint.

In her seven-count suit, Hedger is seeking a judgment of more than $50,000, plus costs and pre- and post-judgment interest.

John P. Kujawski of Kujawski and Associates in O'Fallon will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-764.

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