A jury found a Connecticut hospital at fault Friday in a sex scandal involving a prominent doctor who preyed on young patients for decades, awarding $2.75 million to a plaintiff who said the abuse he suffered as an 8-year-old boy caused a lifetime of emotional trauma.
Hartford's St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center failed in its duty to protect its patients from Dr. George Reardon, a pedophile who is now believed to have abused hundreds of children, the six-person jury found. Reardon resigned in 1993 amid molestation accusations and died in 1998 without ever being charged.
"We are deeply disappointed in the jury's decision in the case," Paul Williams, a lawyer for the hospital, said in comments reported by The Hartford Courant. "It has been a long, painful journey for all parties regarding the late Dr. Reardon. As many witnesses testified, Dr. Reardon was a master manipulator who cunningly deceived his closest professional peers, his family, his neighbors and his community."
The plaintiff, a 50-year-old insurance professional known as Tim Doe 1, had asked the hospital to pay $5 million as compensation for the abuse that he blamed for depression and intimacy issues that contributed to the collapse of his marriage.
In May, the hospital settled lawsuits with 32 other accusers. About 60 other cases are pending against St. Francis.
The scope of the abuse was revealed in 2007 when the owner of Reardon's former home in West Hartford opened a basement wall during a renovation project and found tens of thousands of slides and videos showing children in sexual acts and positions.
The plaintiff testified that Reardon, the hospital's chief of endocrinology, persuaded his parents to sign him up for a bogus growth study in 1969, when he was 8. He said the doctor photographed him and an older sister as he instructed them to pose in sexually suggestive positions.
The jury, which began its deliberations Thursday afternoon, agreed with the plaintiff that the hospital was negligent in its supervision of Reardon and failed in a duty to provide special care to children in its custody.
Besides taking pictures, many victims also say Reardon touched them inappropriately. Most of the abuse occurred in Reardon's office at St. Francis, the plaintiffs say.
Hospital officials condemned Reardon's actions, but denied any responsibility for them. Williams, the hospital's attorney, said it would review its options to determine the next appropriate steps.
The abuse began in the 1950s, when Reardon was a young doctor in Albany, N.Y., and continued in Connecticut through the 1980s, authorities say.
In 1995, the state Medical Examining Board agreed to drop disciplinary proceedings against Reardon because of abuse allegations in exchange for Reardon agreeing to never practice medicine again.
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com