‘It’s sick to me’: Three women testify that Utah nurse groped them when they were hospitalized

Adam Lim. Courtesy | Salt Lake County Sheriff

She was lying in a Millcreek hospital bed one night in January 2009 when her nurse stopped by.

He didn’t say a word, she testified in court Wednesday, as he started acting as if he was checking on her post-operation. She was being treated for Crohn’s disease.

Instead, the 34-year-old woman said that nurse, Adam Tae Kyun Lim, touched her genitals inappropriately and quickly left.

“I was in shock,” she testified during Lim’s trial Wednesday.

The woman was one of three former patients who testified that Lim touched them inappropriately while they were being treated at Salt Lake County hospitals. The allegations from the three women — who do not know one another — range from the 2009 report at St. Mark’s Hospital to a December 2015 allegation that Lim groped a patient’s chest while he was working at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

Lim is charged with three felony charges, two are counts of first-degree felony object rape and the third is a charge of second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse. He could face up to life in prison if convicted of a first-degree felony.

He has pleaded not guilty and has told investigators the women may be mistaken about the touching.

Though Lim is facing a trial in connection to the allegations of the three women, a dozen patients in all have come forward in the past decade complaining that Lim had violated them during stays at various Salt Lake County hospitals and facilities where the nurse has been employed over the years.

The 34-year-old, who in 2009 said she was assaulted, was the sixth woman to complain about Lim.

Years later, the woman told jurors that Lim’s abuse has had lasting impact.

“It just makes me very leery of being in a hospital,” she said, crying. “I just think it’s sick that someone would do that to someone who just has gone through a life-changing surgery. It’s sick to me.”

Another woman, C.C., was hospitalized at Intermountain Medical in Murray in February 2014 after her leg had been amputated. She testified Wednesday that Lim told her he was checking her catheter — but touched her genitals in places no health care provider had done before when doing similar checks.

“He came back another time,” she recalled. “I didn’t want to even have him in the room with me. I complained the following morning, I told the nurse that was assigned to me.”

A third woman, A.L., testified Wednesday that when she was at Intermountain Medical on Dec. 31, 2015, her nurse groped her breasts under the guise of fixing a heart monitor. She said he later came to her room and offered her a toast of sparkling wine, then left and came back a third time where he sat at her bedside and stared at her.

The experience left her feeling “violated’ and “scared.” She reported the abuse to hospital officials weeks later when an employee conducting surveys called and asked about her stay.

“It’s really taken a toll,” she told jurors Wednesday. “I’ve been seeing a therapist since it happened. I have a lot of nightmares about it. I’m afraid of men. I haven’t dated for quite some time after that.”

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune A woman has brought suit against the hospital where emergency room nurse Adam Lim for an alleged sexual assault in 2015. Here, she poses for a portrait in her lawyer's office, Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Defense attorney Clayton Simms has said that his client is “completely innocent,” and explained the allegations of inappropriate touching could be a misunderstanding because English is Lim’s second language and “it’s different” when a male nurse is treating and touching patients.

At trial, Simms focused his cross-examination on what pain medications the women were taking at the time they say they were assaulted and whether they could have been confused about what might have happened.

He also questioned whether settlements in civil cases against Intermountain Medical Center — C.C. received a $175,000 settlement and A.L. estimated she settled for $500,000, according to their testimonies — could have influenced the women’s testimony.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but C.C. and A.L. have agreed to the use of their initials.

A.L., who was the 11th woman to report abuse, alleged in her lawsuit that Intermountain Medical should have done a more thorough background check before hiring Lim and a better internal investigation after patients complained. Public records show Intermountain Medical received at least four complaints of inappropriate touching before Lim was fired in early 2016.

Both C.C. and A.L. have pending civil lawsuits against Lim’s previous employers, alleging the facilities should have reported him to state licensing officials after they fired him for similar misconduct. The women assert in separate lawsuits that St. Mark’s Hospital and Holladay Healthcare Center failed to protect them by not reporting to authorities, and failed to tell Intermountain Medical officials the true reason Lim was fired.

An Intermountain Medical reference form filed among court records in C.C’s case shows that St. Mark’s officials told an Intermountain employee seeking information about Lim that the nurse was a “very hard worker” whose only weakness was that he sometimes lost his train of thought.

Public records show St. Mark’s had at least four reports from patients complaining that Lim inappropriately touched them between 2006 and 2011.

Holladay Healthcare reported Lim “really shines” and that his weakness was he spoke quietly. It’s unclear what specific allegations the rehabilitation center received, though the women allege in their lawsuits that patients had complained of his conduct and that he had been warned about inappropriate touching.

The facilities have denied the allegations in court filings and have argued in response that they owe “no duty” to the women because they were not patients at their facilities.

Lim’s trial is expected to conclude Thursday.