Dental practice faces suits over videotaped sexual assaults

UPDATE: The Atlanta dental practice of Goldstein, Garber, & Salama has been cleared of liability in this case by the Georgia Supreme Court.” See full article here

A pair of civil lawsuits have been filed months after a Cobb County nurse anesthetist was sent to prison for sedating female dental patients awaiting surgeries and sexually assaulting them as they lay unconscious.

Paul Patrick Serdula, who was sentenced to life plus 25 years, also videotaped his assaults on the patients, among them a 15-year-old girl.

The parents of the teenager and another, adult patient filed lawsuits this week against Goldstein, Garber & Salama LLC, the Marietta dental practice that performed the surgeries and hired Serdula to administer the anesthesia.

Efforts were made Friday to obtain comment from Goldstein, Garber & Salama and Drs. Maurice Salama and David Garber, who are named in the lawsuit.

“If you can’t be safe in an operating room where they are permitted to render you totally unconscious, where can you be safe?” asked Tommy Malone, a lawyer for both the teenager and adult patient. Malone filed the suits in Fulton County state court.

Neither patient is identified by name in the lawsuits, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not identify victims of sexual assaults.

According to the suit, the 15-year-old had arrived at the dental practice on Galleria Parkway on July 29, 2009, for extensive surgery as a patient of Salama. The suit says she was left alone with Serdula, who administered anesthesia that left the girl “unconscious, defenseless and completely dependent” on him behind closed doors.

The suit says Serdula lifted the girl’s clothing and videotaped himself sexually assaulting the teen.

Since the attack, the suit says, the teenager “has suffered, and will continue to suffer for the rest of her life, physical and emotional injuries.”

Three months earlier, Serdula videotaped another patient at the same dental practice, according to a second lawsuit. The woman was awaiting surgery April 29, 2009, as a patient of Garber when Serdula, alone with the women, sedated her and videotaped the patient after lifting her clothing, according to the suit.

Both lawsuits say the assaults could have been prevented if Serdula had not been left alone with the patients and the dental practice had taken steps to ensure the patients’ safety while they were sedated. The suits said the patients faced “an unreasonable risk” of harm.

During his trial, prosecutors called Serdula a serial pervert who assaulted 19 patients, including one during childbirth. Police found images of Serdula touching and sexually assaulting unconscious women at a Cobb hospital, where he also worked. He also secretly videotaped seven women in a bathroom in his Marietta home.

Serdula’s crimes were uncovered after a woman visiting the dental office found his cellphone affixed to the underside of the bathroom sink. The lens of the cellphone camera was trained upon the commode.

Serdula, who was arrested Nov. 18, 2009, was found guilty on 34 charges during a bench trial April 11, 2011. The charges included sexual assault of a person in custody, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation and unlawful surveillance. He was sentenced last November and will not be eligible for parole for 55 years.

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