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A Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against PeaceHealth Heads to Trial—and Showcases the Hospital’s Aggressive Legal Strategy

In 2020, Nick Mosher sued the nonprofit health care system PeaceHealth in Clark County Superior Court, alleging that a physician assistant at its Vancouver, Wash., hospital sexually assaulted him during medical appointments between 2016 and 2018.

In the four years since WW first reported Mosher’s lawsuit, the case has taken some remarkable turns.

The physician assistant Mosher accused of assaulting him, Matthew Williams, died under unclear circumstances in early 2023—just six weeks after his deposition was taken. Eight months later, PeaceHealth’s attorneys tried to use an archaic legal statute to get the case thrown out, arguing Mosher could no longer be a witness in his own case because his alleged assailant was dead.

PeaceHealth and Williams’ estate have been separately sanctioned by a Clark County judge for how the defendants’ attorneys conducted proceedings. And in March 2023, a second man came forward alleging that he, too, had been assaulted by Williams during appointments a decade earlier.

Mosher and his attorneys say PeaceHealth, which operates 10 hospitals and 164 clinics in Oregon, Washington and Alaska, is engaging in an extraordinary campaign to intimidate and discredit Mosher, now 32, who works at Costco as a forklift operator.

“PeaceHealth has persisted in its goal to inflict as much pain and embarrassment on Nick as possible,” wrote Mosher’s attorney Bonnie Richardson in a June 4 letter to PeaceHealth’s attorneys.

Richardson alleged in the same letter that PeaceHealth has harassed Mosher through invasive demands for discovery, questions about his sexual past, and a pattern of delaying the case as long as possible. The nonprofit subpoenaed his medical and school records dating back to kindergarten. “We see this as nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to harass and harangue a sexual assault survivor,” Richardson wrote.

In a statement, PeaceHealth said it “takes any allegations made by patients very seriously.”

“PeaceHealth immediately initiated an investigation upon learning of the allegations and conducted that investigation in a manner so as to not impede a concurrent criminal investigation,” a hospital spokesperson said, adding that Williams was placed on leave and reassigned to a “non-clinical role.” (PeaceHealth did not divulge the results of its investigation.)

Attorneys for Williams’ estate could not immediately be reached for comment.

As the biggest players in Oregon’s health care industry grapple with balancing their budgets, Mosher’s case displays how far one of them will go to defend itself against allegations of wrongdoing.

PeaceHealth, a Catholic hospital system, saw 2022 revenues of $3.3 billion, but similar to other hospital systems in the region, such as Legacy and Oregon Health & Science University, it’s long been said it’s financially underwater. One sign that’s true: PeaceHealth announced last year it would close its Eugene hospital.

Mosher says his case should give pause to anyone seeking medical care from PeaceHealth.

“It’s not within me to give up at this point because I want people to know when their family members go to PeaceHealth and this happens to them, that this is what they’re looking at,” Mosher says.

Mosher had his first appointment with Williams in the fall of 2016. He needed a primary care doctor and was seeking help for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

During the first few visits, according to the lawsuit, Williams prescribed him medication for his ADHD and told him he needed to come back for regular visits. During one of those subsequent visits, the suit alleges, Williams said he needed to conduct a physical exam of Mosher. He instructed Mosher to pull down his pants and then began stroking and fondling his penis, according to the lawsuit. Similar assaults happened during subsequent appointments, Mosher alleges, including one during which Williams allegedly inserted his finger into Mosher’s anus.

Commonly, hospitals settle such lawsuits to avoid trial. But one of Mosher’s attorneys, Jason Skuda, says PeaceHealth assumed an aggressive stance from the jump.

“By fighting like this, it keeps others from going forward. PeaceHealth is setting an example here that winds up serving their interests in the long run,” Skuda says. He says PeaceHealth’s rough tactics are partly because Mosher is a man: “There are questions that I know the lawyer would never have asked a female victim. It’s inconceivable.”

Mosher is asking for compensation for emotional and economic damages but has not yet decided a dollar amount to request of the jury.

The first anomaly occurred when Williams, the accused physician assistant, refused to sit for a deposition and also declined to provide discovery materials requested by the plaintiff. Clark County Superior Judge Nancy Retsinas imposed a $1,000 sanction on the defense for overpleading the Fifth Amendment.

Then, just six weeks after Williams’ Nov. 21 deposition, on Jan. 9, 2023, according to a report by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Williams was found dead by a friend who had gone to his home to check on him after Williams’ sister texted that she was worried about his depression.

The Clark County medical examiner declined to determine a cause of death. While a police report mentions a prior suicide attempt, the officer says he found no suicide note, leading him to believe Williams’ death was likely a natural one.

Eight months after Williams was found dead, PeaceHealth and Williams’ estate asked Judge Retsinas to dismiss the case based on an 1850s Washington state law called the dead man’s statute. That law prevents a “witness with an interest in a civil case from testifying about communications or transactions with a deceased person against the deceased.” In this case, the communication or transaction between Williams and Mosher would have been the alleged sexual assault.

Retsinas tossed out the defense’s motion.

Then, in June 2023, it was Mosher’s turn to be deposed. PeaceHealth’s then-attorney Jennifer Moore asked Mosher about why he thought he was the target of emotional abuse by his father when he was a child. Mosher attorney Richardson ended the deposition early, stating she would be seeking a protective order due to Moore’s line of questioning.

In an interview with WW, Mosher said he shut down during the 2023 deposition.

“They asked you very nice and simple questions like things about our family members and where did you grow up,” the soft-spoken Mosher recalls, “and then they do a complete 180 and go down your sexual history route, questions nobody really thinks about asking themselves.”

Moore asked if he ever engaged in unprotected sex; if he used condoms during oral sex.

When the deposition ended, Mosher says he drove home and spent the entire afternoon with his three Australian Labradoodles, a balm for his anxiety. “One question that has really stuck with me is, how did it make me feel when I suffered abuse as a child from my father?” Mosher says. “It’s something entirely unrelated that I’ve dealt with.” (Mosher recently had another deposition.)

Six weeks later, Retsinas granted a protective order requested by Mosher’s attorneys following Mosher’s deposition. Retsinas in her order prohibited the defense’s attorneys from asking about Mosher’s sexual history, sexual health, “sexual preferences during consensual sexual encounters” and “asking questions related to why Plaintiff or any nonparty was the recipient and/or target of any abuse of any kind.”

PeaceHealth declined to respond to questions about the case, citing “patient privacy laws and pending litigation.” The hospital system would not say whether it was paying for the attorneys representing Williams’ estate.

Several weeks after Williams’ death, a 69-year-old man living in Portugal contacted attorney Richardson, saying that a decade earlier he’d suffered remarkably similar abuse from Williams. In a sworn statement submitted to the courts in March 2023, the man wrote that he’d been assaulted by Williams during four separate medical appointments in 2012 and 2013.

While the man gave his name in the sworn statement, WW is withholding it because we do not typically name victims of alleged sexual assault without their consent.

In a Zoom interview, the man told WW he’d first met Williams and his husband at a LGBTQ-friendly church in Portland. The accuser was also a physician assistant employed by PeaceHealth, and when he was looking for a provider for himself, he says Williams told him he was available. He had multiple appointments with Williams where nothing inappropriate or “goofy” occurred, he says.

That changed during one appointment in 2012, he says. “Williams remained fully clothed and instructed me to remove my clothes and assaulted me. When he sexually assaulted me, Williams’ mannerisms were smooth, confident and deliberate,” the man wrote in his March 2023 statement. “I felt immobilized and frozen.”

The accuser says he called Richardson after learning of Williams’ death and finding WW’s Oct. 15, 2020, story about Mosher’s lawsuit at

Why he came forward: “For Nick,” he says.

Mosher says he wakes up most days just wishing this all would be over.

“With [Williams’] passing, it’s up to PeaceHealth to make things right. Because they’re the ones who are trying to bury this entirely.”

The jury trial is currently set for September.

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