SAN FRANCISCO (AP) β€” A lawsuit filed against medical transportation provider American Medical Response West in a California court says negligence in hiring and supervising the ambulance company allowed a paramedic to sexually assault two women about 80 years old while on their way to a hospital.

The law firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy filed the lawsuit last week in San Mateo County Superior Court. It also names Colorado-based American Medical Response, Inc. as a defendant. AMR operates in most US states.

Miguel Nieblas Ontiveros, 35, pleaded not guilty in criminal court to two serious crimes of forced oral copulation.

Anne Marie Murphy, the lead lawyer on the case, said the paramedic should never have been left alone with vulnerable patients, one of whom was allegedly assaulted in May last year and the other in December.

β€œIt is a horrible situation. Our client is an 82-year-old Asian woman who was frail and needed to be transported to a hospital,” she said. “Unfortunately, the paramedic in the back was a sexual predator.”

The woman, who is not named in the lawsuit, was assaulted while strapped to a gurney on her way to the hospital after falling at the nursing home where she resides, according to the lawsuit. Her neck was also immobilized with a brace at the time.

The ambulance company reported the incident to the California Highway Patrol and placed Ontiveros on unpaid leave after the allegations surfaced in December. The company also fired him after his arrest in April.

AMR did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Monday.

The lawsuit says AMR hired or retained Ontiveros despite a grand theft case filed in December 2020 stemming from his previous work with the South San Francisco Fire Department. He faces five counts of grand theft in a case that is pending.

According to the lawsuit, AMR also knew or should have known that Ontiveros was accused of assaulting another woman, who was in her 80s, in May 2022.

The lawsuit alleges physical abuse of a dependent adult and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Ontiveros is being held in jail on $3 million bail. His attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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