Lawsuit accuses state of failing to discipline rapist gynecologist
Eight women sued the state Health Department on Friday, saying officials began receiving complaints about gynecologist Charles Momah in 1995 but did not suspend his license until 2003, after he had abused dozens of other patients.
A jury convicted Momah last month of two counts of rape and two counts of indecent liberties. He faces a maximum 23 years in prison when he's sentenced next month.
The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court on Friday seeks class-action status, saying that at least 60 and perhaps as many as 500 women were abused by Nigerian-born Momah and his twin, Dennis Momah, who has been accused of sometimes posing as the doctor. No criminal charges have been brought against the brother, who has denied the allegations.
The Health Department's Medical Quality Assurance Commission never
should have licensed Charles Momah to practice
medicine to begin with, wrote lawyer Harish Bharti, who's being assisted in the
case by former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge. When Momah
The hospital, Massena Memorial in Massena, N.Y., declined to renew Momah's clinical privileges after finding that he had performed a tubal sterilization procedure with "no prior consent"; improperly doled out a narcotic painkiller; kept sloppy records; and that he "may be abusing the practice of induction for his personal convenience, since hospital records demonstrate a high rate of inductions" just before Momah had scheduled trips out of town.
"The misconduct by Dr. Momah at the
The Health Department had not seen the lawsuit until The Associated Press provided a copy and could not immediately comment on the allegations, spokesman Tim Church said.
"Patient safety is our highest concern," Church said Friday. "Our first indication of any boundary violations by Dr. Momah was in 2003, and he has not practiced since in our state."
moved to Washington, he opened clinics in the south Seattle suburbs of Burien
and Federal Way under the name Northwest Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and
Infertility. He also worked out of hospitals in
In 1995, the lawsuit said, Momah repeatedly performed unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds on plaintiffs Daleena Rollins and Jolie Campbell, as well as other patients — a procedure that typically is performed once every four years. Momah billed the state for these exams, creating a record of how often he performed them, the lawsuit said.
Rollins became concerned about Momah's sexual touching, and switched doctors in early 1995. With the help of the new doctor, she filed a written complaint with the commission that April. The commission assigned a case number but apparently never followed up, the lawsuit said.
By 1997, several more
complaints had been filed. One woman complained to
The Health Department wrote Momah a letter in March 1997, saying he was the target of
an investigation for "unprofessional conduct." By that time, Momah had been indicted in
He was acquitted of the
criminal charges, but he eventually agreed to pay $500,000 to settle civil
fraud charges brought by
The lawsuit seeks damages to be determined at trial. Bharti is also representing dozens of women who have sued the Momahs.
Gene Johnson has covered courts and legal affairs for the AP since 2000.