The lawsuit concerns an ambulance company accused of sexually abusing 2 elderly women

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A lawsuit filed against medical transportation provider American Medical Response West in a California court alleges that the ambulance company’s lax hiring and oversight allowed a paramedic to sexually assault two women in their 80s on their way to the hospital.

The law firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy filed the lawsuit last week in San Mateo County Superior Court. It also names American Medical Response, Inc., based in Colorado, as a defendant. AMR is active in most US states.

Miguel Nieblas Ontiveros, 35, pleaded not guilty in criminal court to two counts of forced oral agreement.

Ann Marie Murphy, the lead lawyer in the case, said the paramedic should never have been left alone with the vulnerable patients, one of whom was allegedly assaulted last May and the other in December.

“It is a terrible situation. Our client is an 82-year-old Asian woman who was frail and needed to be taken to hospital,” he said. “Unfortunately, the paramedic in the back was a sexual predator.”

The woman, who has not been named in the lawsuit, was attacked while tied to a belt on her way to the hospital after falling at the assisted living home where she lives, according to the lawsuit. His neck was also immobilized by a brace at that moment.

The ambulance company reported the incident to the California Highway Patrol and placed Ontiveros on unpaid leave after the allegations surfaced in December. The company fired him after his arrest in April.

American Medical Response said it does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation. “The said employee was terminated from his position immediately after his arrest. AMR is cooperating with law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office,” the statement said.

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The lawsuit alleges that AMR hired or retained Ontiveros despite a grand theft case filed in December 2020 stemming from his previous employment with the South San Francisco Fire Department. He faces five counts of grand theft pending trial.

According to the lawsuit, AMR also knew or should have known that Ontiveros was accused of assaulting another woman, who was in her 80s, in May 2022.

The lawsuit alleges physical abuse of a dependent adult and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Ontiveros is being held in jail on $3 million bail. His attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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