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August 20, 2014

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Company’s bankruptcy filing could affect sex assault lawsuits

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Steven Farmer

A company that provides temporary nurses to hospitals in the Las Vegas area has filed for bankruptcy liquidation, potentially affecting sexual assault lawsuits against nursing assistant Steven Farmer and Centennial Hills Hospital.

American Nursing Services Inc. of Metairie, La., in the New Orleans area, and associated companies including American Health Care Recruiters Inc. filed for protection from creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware Oct. 2.

No reason was listed in court papers for the bankruptcy filings and company officials could not be reached for comment Monday. Calls to the firm's Las Vegas office are referred to the company's bankruptcy trustee, who could not be reached.

On its Web site, the company said the Las Vegas office branch has operated since 2000 and has been serving a dozen hospitals in the Las Vegas and Henderson areas.

American Nursing Services in its Chapter 7 filing listed estimated assets and liabilities of $1 million to $10 million apiece and estimated it had 200-999 creditors.

American Nursing is one of the defendants in two pending lawsuits in Clark County District Court filed by women charging they were assaulted last year by Farmer at Centennial Hills, whose employment at the hospital was arranged by American Nursing.

The bankruptcy filing automatically stops prosecution of the civil cases against American Nursing, but they can proceed against the other defendants.

Anyone suing American Nursing now needs bankruptcy court permission to proceed with their suit and anyone claiming damages against the company potentially could become a creditor.

Farmer is awaiting trial on sexual assault charges involving six women he allegedly encountered while working at Centennial Hills or previously at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. The first of two planned criminal trials is set to begin next month in Clark County District Court.

Neal Hyman, an attorney for one of the women suing Centennial Hills and American Nursing, said Monday that the bankruptcy filing means his client's case will continue to focus on what has always been the main target of the suit: Centennial Hills, which is part of the Valley Health System.

Valley Health System is owned by King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services Inc.

The woman's suit alleges the hospital failed to properly supervise Farmer, enabling him to assault her twice in May 2008 -- once in an elevator while taking her from the emergency room to a hospital room; and then again in the hospital room.

Hyman said Monday that American Nursing had documented previous inappropriate behavior between Farmer and a patient at another facility.

"He had been written up for improper sexual conduct," Hyman said.

Centennial Hills is jointly and 100 percent liable for the alleged negligence in Farmer being placed for employment at Centennial Hills, Hyman said.

He added that besides seeking damages for her alleged injuries, the woman hopes the suit results in changes in Valley Health System procedures to prevent future assaults.

Attorneys for Centennial Hills and Farmer have denied wrongdoing in both civil suits, with Centennial Hills saying specifically it had no knowledge of any previous wrongdoing by Farmer.

Centennial Hills has said it already has measures in place to ensure the safety of patients.

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