A lawsuit filed last week in Natrona County District Court details years of sexual assault allegations against a Casper gynecologist, convicted of sexually assaulting patients, years before he was hired at Community Health Center of Central Wyoming.

Paul Harnetty was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual assault in 2018 and acquitted for five other counts.

Now, a former patient who alleged Harnetty sexually assaulted her, is suing Harnetty, Community Health Center of Central Wyoming and a number of employees and board members there. The patient, Tosha Blackburn, was not a victim for whom Harnetty was convicted of sexually assaulting.

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Blackburn and her husband, Josh Blackburn, have also sued the federal government for $2.5 million for its failure to oversee Harnetty.

Harnetty is currently serving a 20- to 30-year prison sentence for the two second-degree sexual assault convictions.

The suit in Natrona County District Court alleges Harnetty had a years-long history of sexual assault allegations before Community Health Center of Central Wyoming hired him and that hiring staff should have been aware of those allegations.

By hiring Harnetty, the suit states, Community Health Center of Central Wyoming wantonly put patients at risk of harm.

According to the lawsuit, the extensive list of allegations against Harnetty while employed in Georgia include:

  • In 2007, a nurse filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment against Harnetty
  • In 2010, a nurse complained to the Georgia Composite Medical Board alleging "inappropriate actions by Harnetty. The board opened an investigation in which several nurses came forward alleging inappropriate and unusual actions by Harnetty in examining his patients. Harnetty subsequently gave up his hospital privileges at the facility.
  • Once Harnetty lost his hospital privileges, he continued to see pregnant patients in his office, but did not inform them he lost his privileges and therefore could not deliver the babies. Many patients didn't find out until they arrived at the hospital in labor.
  • In 2010, Harnetty was served with a medical malpractice suit accusing him of an unnecessary pelvic surgery in which the patient almost died due to a mistake during the surgery.
  • Over 12 nurses who worked with Harnetty for years told board investigators that Harnetty routinely inserted his finger into the ansuses of pregnant women while they were delivering babies.

"CHCCW, through its employees and the Officer/Director Defendants failed to do its due diligence in hiring, screening and performing a thorough background check of Dr. Harnetty before hiring him or granting him physician privileges," the suit states. "It is believed and therefore alleged that had CHWCCW, its employees and the Officer/Director Defendants completed a detailed and thorough background check on Dr. Harnetty, it would have discovered Dr. Harnetty had improper sexual contact to patients and exposed a threat to his patients prior to CHCCW hiring him."

According to the suit, Harnetty saw Tosha Blackburn on September 11, 2015 for a gynelogical examination. During the examination, Harnetty allegedly sexually assaulted Blackburn.

Although a nurse was to be present in attentive during the examination, the nurse left the examination room for a significant portion of the exam, leaving Blackburn alone with Harnetty, according to the suit.

Blackburn subsequently filed a police report.

Tosha and Josh Blackburn are seeking $50,000 in damages. An answer to their suit has not yet been filed.

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