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Jury awards $13.25M in psych facility sexual misconduct trial

A jury awarded $13.25 million to three women who said an Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital employee had sexual contact with them while they were patients at the Ventura psychiatric facility.

The jurors ruled in Ventura County, California, Superior Court Monday that Vista del Mar, its parent company Signature Healthcare Services and former mental health worker Juan Valencia all bear responsibility. The women said Valencia, later fired by Vista del Mar, committed sexual acts with each of them in 2013 after they were admitted to the hospital for care related to bipolar disorder and psychosis.

The jury found Signature, which owns Vista and 15 other hospitals in six states, acted with malice or oppression, meaning the company could face punitive damages in a second phase of the trial that started immediately after the verdict. They could reach a decision on additional damages as soon as Tuesday, ending a trial that began in mid-June.