Doctor’s Abuse Catches Up With CT Hospital

     (CN) – A Connecticut hospital owes $2.75 million to one of the hundreds of victims of a doctor who sexually abused children while conducting a “growth study,” the state Supreme Court ruled.
     Dr. George Reardon started his growth study at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford in 1964. He used money from the St. Francis Hospital Association and the hospital’s endocrinology research fund to buy a movie camera, film, lenses and lighting equipment.
     He also used the funds to buy two books on erotica, as well as another book called “The Juvenile Homosexual Experience and Its Effect on Adult Sexuality.”
     Tim Doe, the plaintiff, claimed that his mother allowed him to be in the study in 1969 at the age of 8, along with his 10-year-old sister. The mother thought Reardon would only be measuring the children’s limbs, but Doe said the doctor took explicit, naked photos of the children.
     Reardon allegedly sexually abused Doe during his fourth and final visit in 1972. Doe said he and his sister did not tell their parents what happened with Reardon for the next 35 years.
     Two other men testified that they were victims of Reardon when they were children. They both said Reardon photographed and fondled them.
     A mountain of evidence surfaced in 2007, almost a decade after Reardon’s death. The owner of Reardon’s former residence discovered a false wall in the basement.
     Behind that wall were more than 50,000 photo slides and 130 films, including film depicting Doe and his sister.
     Doe was one of four plaintiffs selected for an initial consolidated trial among the 140 litigants who filed negligence claims against the hospital.
     The hospital moved to sever the cases, and Doe’s took place first. The jury ruled in his favor, awarding him $2.75 million.
     The hospital appealed, arguing that Doe was required to prove that the hospital knew about Reardon’s propensity to abuse children.
     The Connecticut Supreme Court rejected these arguments, 4-1, on July 16, citing the hospital’s failure to follow its own rules for monitoring research projects.
     “When the harm resulting from the criminal misconduct of a third party is foreseeable in view of the facts and circumstances presented, there is no reason why the injured party should nevertheless be required to establish that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the third party’s criminal propensity,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.
     Writing in dissent, Justice Peter Zarella said the trial court should have allowed the hospital’s requested jury instructions regarding knowledge of Reardon’s propensity and regarding the use of hospital bylaws to establish the standard of care.
     The trial court treated Doe’s claim as one of negligent supervision, in which propensity would be an important factor, for most of the trial, according to the dissent.
     “When it came time to give the jury instructions, however, the court failed to give a charge on actual or constructive notice, despite requests to do so from the plaintiff and the hospital,” Zarella wrote. “The court instead gave a charge consistent with the Connecticut Model Civil Jury Instructions on general negligence. For this reason alone, the judgment should be reversed.”

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