U.S. Attorney seeks to transfer suit by mental health patient who was sexually assaulted to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Oct 24, 2012

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is seeking to move a lawsuit

initiated by a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by a doctor during therapy sessions at a Philadelphia mental health center from state court to the federal court in Philadelphia.

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and two of his assistant U.S. attorneys filed a Notice of Removal Oct. 23 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to transfer a suit brought by a Philadelphia resident known only as “G.C.H.” to the federal venue.

Attorneys with Philadelphia-based Kline & Specter filed suit back in late June of this year on behalf of the plaintiff, who alleges that an employee at Greater Philadelphia Health Action Inc. initiated an inappropriate sexual relationship with her after she began visiting the facility for mental health treatment.

In her lawsuit, G.C.H. claims that Harris Murphy, an employee of the defendant, initiated an inappropriate sexual relationship with her during her initial intake session back on March 1, 2010, in Murphy’s office at GPHA.

The suit claims that Murphy had “inappropriate and sexual contact” with the plaintiff through July of that year.

“Defendant Murphy initiated and maintained the inappropriate relationship under the guise of purported therapy,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint alleges that the inappropriate sexual contact with the plaintiff continued until the woman disclosed the relationship to another staffer during a therapy session.

In addition to Murphy and the health agency itself, the lawsuit names as defendants Aruby Odom-White and Katharine Munoz Napalinga.

The suit accuses the other two doctors of negligent hiring and training, and for failing to discover that prior to his contact with the plaintiff, Murphy was allegedly “seducing” other patients under the guise of therapy.

The complaint says that the agency itself is vicariously liable for Murphy’s negligent conduct.

In the removal notice that was filed this week, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania states that the suit should play out in federal court because the mental health agency is covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act, which, the prosecutor wrote, is the exclusive remedy for negligence actions brought against any employee of the United States while acting in their official capacity or any federal agency.

The defendants in the case, Memeger wrote, are deemed federal agencies or employees of the U.S. under the act.


The state case ID number is 120202840.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-06030-JS. 

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