PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - As investigators look into a military doctor for allegations of sexually assaulting numerous male patients, two of the alleged victims have begun the process to hold the U.S. Army financially liable for the pain inflicted on them.
Lawyers with Sanford Heisler Sharp filed an administrative complaint on Thursday, that opens the door to a future federal tort claim against the Army and the Department of Defense.
The case is tied to Major Michael Stockin, an anesthesiologist at JBLM’s Madigan Army Medical Center, who remains employed but is no longer allowed to see patients while the military investigates a sprawling sex abuse case.
A military spokesperson told FOX 13 that it is U.S. Army policy to not comment on ongoing investigations.
Stockin’s attorney, who could not be reached following the latest development, had previously told FOX 13 that he had concerns over how information was revealed before charges were made public. The Washington Post first published details of the claims against Stockin, before the charges were filed.
"Charges alone are not evidence and the defense has been given very little opportunity to review the Army Criminal Investigation Division’s investigation," said Robert Capovilla, founding partner of Capovilla & Williams. "It's very disappointing that information was leaked to the media before Major Stockin was formally charged, or the defense was made aware of the allegations."
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: JBLM doctor accused of sexual assault against multiple patients
Christine Dunn, who represents two of the victims’ that filed this week’s administrative claim, told FOX 13 that both of her clients suffered similar trauma from a visit to Stockin. Both men went to see the doctor at a pain clinic, both reported inappropriate groping of their genitalia.
"Under the guise of performing a sensory exam the doctor groped their genitals," said Dunn, a partner with Sanford Heisler Sharp. "I mean, really massaged their genitals in a way that, there really is just no medical necessity for. It felt very violating to both men."
Dunn told FOX 13 that the military should be held responsible for allowing Stockin to hold a position to do this to various patients.
She noted that numerous high-profile sexual assault cases involving doctors have been reported on across various national news outlets, including the infamous case of Larry Nassar – a convicted sex offender who abused young athletes for years under the guise of medical treatment.
"If the Army had been doing a better job of keeping an eye on this doctor, these victims wouldn’t be in this situation," said Dunn.
"It caused real emotional trauma to be violated in that way. They’ve seen therapists, and they’re getting treatment, but it has impacted their lives."
Dunn’s clients reportedly sought medical care from Stockin at Madigan Army Medical Center between 2020 and Spring of 2022.
Previously, the Army had told FOX 13 that Stockin stopped seeing patients in February 2022. It has since amended that statement, with a spokesperson writing: "When the reports were first received, the Madigan Army Medical Center leadership took immediate and appropriate action to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Maj. Stockin was suspended from seeing patients and placed on administrative duty. The MAMC leadership continues to provide safe and quality care to its patients."
Ryan Guilds, a lawyer representing a number of victims who have accused Stockin of assault, estimated that there were 20 victims. He also believes that there are many more.
"The distrust, generally, of the military justice system all of those things combine to create an environment with survivors that don’t come forward," said Guilds.
Both Guilds and Dunn told FOX 13 they expect additional victims to come forward as word emerges of the charges that have been filed.
In a report released in April, the Department of Defense identified 8,942 reports of sexual assault throughout 2022 in the military.
President Biden signed an executive order in late-July that transfers key decision-making authorities from military commanders in cases involving sexual assault to independent military prosecutors. The changes came following recommendations by an Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military.
"This is a person that they trust," said Dunn. "This is not only a doctor that has some medical authority behind him, but this is also an Army Doctor that has the weight of the United States behind him."
Military officials have not laid out any prospective timeline of when, or if, a hearing will be ordered following the announcement of charges late last month.