Four more women joined a lawsuit this week against Dr. Michael Dick of Decatur, bringing to 31 the number who allege he sexually assaulted them in his medical office.
“The stories from all the clients are remarkably similar both in what was done to them, how it was done to them and who was present when it was done to them,” Eric Artrip, one of the Huntsville lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said Thursday. “The consistency of the stories leads us to believe there are probably hundreds of these women out there. We believe there are many, many other victims out there that just haven’t come forward yet.”
The plaintiffs added to the suit this week, who are identified through pseudonyms, allege assaults as recent as June 2018. Dick’s license has been temporarily suspended since October. In proceedings before the state Medical Licensure Commission, Dick agreed to have the suspension remain in place until a related Morgan County felony charge is resolved. The trial in that first-degree sexual assault case, allegedly involving a quadriplegic woman, has not been scheduled. The arraignment is next month.
Dick, 66, also faces trials in September on three Morgan County misdemeanor harassment counts involving his conduct with patients.
The allegations filed this week against Dick include a claim by a 52-year-old Limestone County woman who alleges “Dick pulled her pants and underwear down to the bend of her knees and rubbed her butt with his hands for almost three minutes after administering the injections.” In another visit, he allegedly had the woman remove her shirt and then he undid her bra, rubbing her shoulders, her back and below her breasts.
The Limestone County woman alleged she brought her husband to the next visit “in hopes that his presence would curb Dick’s behavior,” but Dick “grabbed (her) face with both hands and kissed her on the cheek and then gave her a hug.” She filed complaints with the Decatur Police Department and the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners.
A 37-year-old Madison County woman alleged Dick rubbed his genitals against her while she was trapped against the exam table, hugged her, and kissed her twice on the mouth. A nurse was present in the exam room for the first kiss, she alleged.
A Morgan County woman alleged Dick kissed her on the forehead, rubbed her shoulders and pulled her pants and underwear down farther than necessary to administer an injection in her hip. On another occasion, the 41-year-old said, Dick ran his finger between her buttocks. A nurse who was present during the conduct apologized at the end of each appointment, the woman alleged.
A Colbert County woman also joined the lawsuit, alleging Dick “leaned his genitals against her knees,” kissed her and had her pull down her pants and underwear for an injection in her hip.
Dick’s lawyer, Joel Williams of Birmingham, on Thursday said his client is innocent of any misconduct.
“I think there are misperceptions by the patients,” Williams said. “There are tons of patients that support him. I get calls saying, ‘I can’t believe people are alleging this. I’ve been going to him for years and years and nothing’s ever happened. He’s always polite.’ ”
Williams said Dick’s practice at Alabama Medicine and Rheumatology, located at 2828 U.S. 31, requires more physical contact than some specialties.
“If you read the text, he’s doing standard rheumatological examinations. Perhaps some patients misperceived what he was doing or why he was doing it, but it’s part of the standard exam. I’ve got the text,” Williams said.
“Obviously kissing is not in the text, but he denies misconduct of that sort. He certainly acknowledges that he’s comforting to his patients, which he needs to be. But he’s not engaged in sexual misconduct; absolutely not. I have no reservations in saying I do not believe he has engaged in wrongful sexual misconduct.”
Many of the 31 women allege nurses were in the exam room at the time of the sexual misconduct, and Artrip said he expects to name them as defendants once they have been identified.
“The nurses have a high degree of culpability here, because the nurses were consistently in the room while these activities were being done. They knew it wasn’t right. They knew the patients should not have been subject to this kind of behavior, and they didn’t do anything about it,” Artrip said. “They just did what they felt they needed to do to protect their doctor and protect their jobs, to the detriment of these patients. They’re on the hook.”
Artrip said Dick’s alleged victims are struggling.
“It varies to some extent, but very common emotions they’re feeling are embarrassment and violation,” Artrip said. “While some of the women are quite angry, they almost seem to have a sense that he has a problem and needs to be stopped, and that he has a compulsion that probably would not allow him to stop.
“A common thread is the feeling that he used them as a toy.”
Artrip said three of his clients have been deposed by Dick’s lawyers, and three more will be deposed next month. He does not expect to take Dick’s pretrial testimony until after the felony charge has been resolved.
“While that charge is pending it would be difficult for us to get any real information out of him in the form of a deposition because he would be within his rights to plead the Fifth Amendment, to refuse to answer questions based on his right against self-incrimination,” Artrip said.