Woman paid $1.1M in invasive search lawsuit

MGN Online
Monday, July 7, 2014 - 3:54pm

A New Mexico woman has been paid $1.1 million after reaching a settlement with University Medical Center of El Paso and two Texas Tech University physicians, according to the woman's attorneys with the ACLU of New Mexico and Texas.

The lawsuit, dismissed today after the settlement was reached in May, stems from accusations over invasive body cavity searches performed on the 54-year-old woman that began with Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations officers at the Paso del Norte International Bridge, and eventually moved to the hospital.

UMC leaders say the hospital paid $125,000, Texas Tech paid $500,000, and the insurance carrier, National Union National Union Fire Insurance Company, paid $475,000.

As we reported, the hospital also reviewed and changed hospital policy in regards to the treatment suspects being brought in to the hospital.

A drug-sniffing K9 unit with CBP alerted to the presence of narcotics on the woman, which led to a series of searches including a strip-search, an observed bowel movement, X-ray, speculum exam, rectal exam, vaginal exam, and a CT scan, all conducted without a warrant.

No narcotics were ever found.

"Despite the trauma and humiliation endured by our client, she had the courage to step forward," said Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas. "Because of her, the hospital has changed its policy to prevent this from happening to others. Now we hope that CBP will also take responsibility and stop subjecting innocent people to unconstitutional and abusive searches."

"We are very pleased that the hospital has taken steps to alleviate the great wrong done to our client," said ACLU of New Mexico cooperating attorney Laura Schauer Ives. "We hope this settlement will stand as a powerful reminder to other doctors and medical facilities that they have the right and responsibility to refuse to carry out unjustified, unnecessary, demeaning searches on behalf of law enforcement."

The suit against the CBP officers involved is still ongoing.

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