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Lawsuits & Litigation

Woman Allegedly Sexually Assaulted By A Prison Doctor Awarded $175k

— March 30, 2017

The state of Oregon agreed Tuesday to pay $175,000 to a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by a prison doctor during a gynecological exam.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 in U.S. District Court. Oregon Live reports that a Dr. Robert W. Snider, along with several other employees at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, were named as defendants. Staff members listed included the medical director and chief medical officer of Coffee Creek.

Although the case was formally settled earlier in the year, Dr. Snider still holds a contract with the Oregon Department of Corrections. Less than a month after the lawsuit was resolved, the physician was assigned to a telemedicine program. Via a camera and video conference capabilities, he is allowed to assist in a variety of gynecological procedures. An agency spokesperson said that “he delivers medical care through videoconferencing technology.”

A common area in the Coffee Creek women's prison, with tables and benches in the foreground and open cell doors visible in the background.
Coffee Creek is a women’s prison in Oregon, administered by the State Department of Corrections; image courtesy of the DLR Group

Betty Bernt, another departmental spokesperson, stressed that Snider’s reassignment was not the result of the successful lawsuit.

Dr. Snider had been accused of abuse by the plaintiff as well as another former or current inmate at Coffee Creek. The accusations were broad enough to warrant the suit being filed as a class action.

Snider had been investigated by the State of New York Medical Board in the past. He was charged with 34 counts of professional misconduct, primarily related to fraudulent treatments he claimed were based on a “federal act” which never existed. The doctor had also run afoul of the Oregon medical board and was issued a “corrective action agreement” in 2009.

While the attorneys for Coffee Creek say there was never any evidence of wrongdoing, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Leonard Berman, suggested the lawsuit may have stemmed from a longstanding trend.

“Inmates are low on the totem pole,” Berman said. “They don’t always complain, they don’t always know misconduct is happening.

“My sense is that more bad news is happening at Coffee Creek; it’s just not getting reported,” he concluded.

One of his clients had stated in court that Snider “sexually assaulted her with a medical instrument” before making a suggestive comment about her “cervix was playing hide and seek.”

“I had never experienced anything like that,” she said. “I was very confused.”

An investigation conducted by the Oregon Department of Corrections claimed a medical assistant who was present for the examination said the physician seemed to have been acting professionally. The medical assistant was separated from the inmate and Snider by a blind.

The suit, which was originally filed in 2015, had asked for punitive damages, reimbursement for legal fees, and the termination of Dr. Snider’s professional relationship with the Oregon Department of Corrections.

While the $175,000 award is expected to be paid out, Snider will keep his job, which, according to the agency payroll, is worth $233,028 per annum.


State pays former inmate $175,000 settlement in abuse claim

Suit alleges assault by doctor at Coffee Creek

Two women accuse Coffee Creek prison doctor of sexual assault

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