OAKLAND -- The parents of a UC Berkeley student who they say committed suicide after being sexually abused by a doctor at a university-run health care facility have sued the doctor and UC Regents.
Annie and Mike Stafford sued on behalf of their 23-year-old son, Elgin Stafford, who they say was abused by Dr. Robert Kevess during medical exams at the University Health Service's Tang Center.
Kevess, 53, has since been charged with 19 felony counts, including sexual exploitation of multiple patients, sexual battery with false professional purpose and four counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object. He is expected to have a pretrial hearing July 27 in Alameda County Superior Court. The victims are not named in the criminal complaint; it's unclear if Elgin Stafford is among them.
The doctor resigned in April 2011, three weeks after a student went to the center's medical director and alleged that Kevess had engaged in illegal sexual contact with the student. He had worked at the center for 22 years.
Kevess agreed after the charges were filed to have his medical license suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case, according to newspaper reports. He is currently free on $745,000 bail.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that Kevess abused Elgin Stafford on multiple occasions, causing the victim to be "plagued with nightmares of sexual violation (and feelings of) intense shame, humiliation and anger,"
Kevess used his position of trust as Elgin Stafford's doctor to "perform wholly unnecessary and shockingly prolonged ... exams which transitioned into acts of molestation" in May and June 2010, according to the suit, filed Friday in Alameda County Superior Court.
"One of the places (kids of this age are) supposed to be safe is within the confines of university health services," said the Stafford family's lawyer, Andrew Treger, of the Los Angeles firm Weber & Baer. "Unfortunately, there was a sexual predator taking advantage of his role.
"How can this happen to multiple students if the university is supervising their staff properly and paying attention?"
The UC Regents were ultimately responsible for Kevess' hiring and supervision, according to the suit, and were negligent in failing to investigate Kevess' background and properly supervise him at the Tang Center.
"We grieve for the Stafford family," said Kevess' attorney, Robert Beles. "However, Dr. Kevess is in no way responsible for the death of this young man."
Beles also said that there is no death certificate indicating that Elgin Stafford's death was a suicide. A call to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office was not immediately returned.
"We're obviously saddened by the passing of the young man in question, but intend to contest strongly any allegations of negligence," said Dan Mogulof, executive director of UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs. "The physician in question had undergone an extensive background check (and) had a record that was completely clear of any complaints.
"We just did not see any warning signs," Mogulof said. "We responded immediately when the first individual came forward."
Contact Daniel M. Jimenez at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/dmjreports.