Crime & Courts

Ex-VA worker who sexually abused veterans the subject of around 100 lawsuits, lawyer says

Former physician’s assistant Mark Wisner is serving a 15-year sentence for sex crimes against veterans who sought treatment at a Veteran's Administration hospital in Leavenworth. Nearly 100 veterans have filed civil lawsuits against him, an attorney said this week.
Former physician’s assistant Mark Wisner is serving a 15-year sentence for sex crimes against veterans who sought treatment at a Veteran's Administration hospital in Leavenworth. Nearly 100 veterans have filed civil lawsuits against him, an attorney said this week. Kansas Department of Corrections

It's been five months since Mark E. Wisner learned he'll spend more than 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting veterans during medical exams. And while the criminal case is over, civil actions filed against the former physician's assistant and the U.S. government continue to pile up.

On March 12, Kansas City attorneys Dan Curry and Sarah Brown filed three more lawsuits on behalf of Wisner's former patients, who say they were fondled and excessively questioned about their sex lives while under his care at the Eisenhower Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leavenworth. Some of the veterans who sought treatment had been injured in combat.

Curry said he expects to file a few more lawsuits in the near future - bringing the total number to around 100. Some seek $2 million or more in damages.

Attorneys for the government have said they can’t comment on pending litigation. They’ve asked for several of the cases to be dismissed but have been ruled against. In court filings, they deny most of the allegations.

The first trial could come as early as 2019, Curry said. No dates have been set.

"None of these cases have been settled yet. They're all being litigated," Curry said. The cases are being assigned under one district judge and one magistrate judge as they come in, he said.

"The U.S. court system could see 100 trials in front of the same judge," Curry said.

Curry, who is representing about 65 veterans in the cases, said only a fraction of the patients who might have been subjected to Wisner's conduct have decided to file lawsuits. There could be "two to three times as many veterans out there who never realized what was going on or decided not to pursue any action," he said.

In August, Wisner was convicted of criminal sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and three counts of sexual battery for sexually abusing patients at the VA hospital, where he worked from 2008 to 2014. The abuse took place during improper and medically unnecessary genital exams. Some patients also reported that Wisner made sexual comments to them during the visits and didn't wear gloves or wash his hands when he touched them. His license to practice was revoked in 2015.

The newest lawsuits, which were filed on behalf of three veterans from Missouri, echo claims made in earlier ones: That Wisner won veterans' trust, used his position to molest them and that United States officials "had actual knowledge" that Wisner "was committing widespread, large-scale malpractice on its patients" but failed to supervise him or stop it.

The counts alleged include medical malpractice, battery, invasion of privacy and negligent hiring, retention and supervision practices.

Among claims are that:

  • Several VA patient files that Wisner maintained contained "open and obvious mis-prescription and over-prescription of medications to veterans that ... indicated that he was providing negligent care to veterans."

  • Wisner "was a danger to his patients" and had "propensities and a history of ... violating patient boundaries."

  • Employees who had oversight over Wisner failed to follow required credentialing, reappraisal and certification requirements and didn't conduct screenings that would have turned up health-care related criminal convictions. Wisner was arrested for a sex-related crime in California in 1987.

  • The VA remained "idle in the face of Wisner's ongoing program of committing malpractice" by not reporting his conduct to police and the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

Wisner is currently serving his 15-year prison sentence at Norton Correctional Facility in Norton. He is 66.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

  Comments