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Woman sues Asante over missing belly button ring

A woman whose belly button ring was missing after she underwent knee surgery is suing Asante for $125,000 because she says a nurse must have inappropriately touched her and removed the piercing.

The woman is complaining of negligence, assault and battery in her lawsuit against Asante, Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass and the male nurse. She goes by the initials H.A. in the lawsuit, which is pending in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The nurse's name has been redacted from court documents based on a judge's order.

In her lawsuit, the woman said she went to Three Rivers Medical Center for knee surgery in June 2014. A nurse was helping to prepare her for surgery and was inventorying her personal adornments, including body rings.

The lawsuit asserts she told the nurse she had a belly button ring and he "responded with the disturbing and sexually suggestive comment to the effect, 'So you don't have any nipple rings?' While plaintiff was disturbed by that comment, she proceeded to undergo the surgery, not having been asked to remove the ring."

After being discharged, the woman returned home and was able to bathe the day after the surgery. She noticed the naval ring, which had been in place for several years without being removed, was missing, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit states, "Plaintiff alleges that while she was unconscious, (the defendant) wrongfully touched her belly and perhaps other places and removed her belly button ring. H.A. did not consent to this touching, and the touching was not at all reasonable or necessary for knee surgery."

The lawsuit says the woman has suffered and will suffer "physical and psychological injuries, including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, nightmares and reduced trust in medical professionals."

The lawsuit says Asante was negligent in hiring the nurse and failing to monitor and train him.

The woman is being represented by Rogue Law Firm in Grants Pass.

Rogue Law Firm lawyer Richard Adams said he doesn't think the lawsuit is frivolous.

"It's certainly not to me and wouldn't be if I were the subject of what's described as having happened in the lawsuit," Adams said.

Lawyers for both sides sparred in court this week over what medical records would have to be turned over as evidence.

Lyndsay Byrne, a lawyer representing Asante and the employee, said she could not comment on pending litigation.

In court filings, Asante's attorneys asked the woman to admit or deny various statements.

The woman admitted she does not have a memory of being inappropriately touched by an Asante employee during her hospital stay.

When asked if she had any personal knowledge of being inappropriately touched or any personal knowledge of an Asante employee removing her belly button ring, the woman's attorney objected to the questions, calling them vague and confusing.

Her lawyer responded she has personal knowledge of circumstances from which she can conclude she was inappropriately touched and she can conclude an Asante employee removed the belly button ring.

The woman denied the naval ring may have been removed or gotten lost after she was discharged from the hospital.

She said she did not contact law enforcement about her allegations of inappropriate touching. She also said she had not received medical care or been given medication to treat her alleged psychological injuries.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.