A man who claims he was one of Dr. George Reardon's many child sexual abuse victims sued St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center on Monday, saying the hospital failed to protect him from the doctor.
The plaintiff, listed in the lawsuit as John Doe No. 1, claims the hospital knew, or should have known, that Reardon "had a propensity to sexually batter minors" but failed to do anything to stop the abuse.
The filing in Hartford Superior Court came nearly a week after West Hartford police announced that a huge collection of child pornography was found in a hidden storage space in Reardon's former home earlier this year. The cache included 50,000 35mm slides and more than 100 8mm movie reels.
The new West Hartford homeowners knocked down a wall as part of a remodeling project when they found thousands of slides and films that depicted naked children, reports CBS News affiliate WFSB-TV.
Police believe Reardon, who practiced at St. Francis for more than 30 years before his death in 1998, may have victimized hundreds of children beginning in the 1950s. Authorities have launched a public campaign to find victims, and they say nearly 80 have come forward so far.
The new negligence lawsuit is the first against the hospital in Reardon's case, said Paul Edwards, the plaintiff's lawyer. He said he expects to file similar complaints from others against the hospital in the coming days and weeks.
Reardon's estate has been sued by other victims, and complaints of sexual abuse led to hearings before the Connecticut Medical Examining Board in the 1990s.
Hospital officials said Monday that they were reviewing the lawsuit and investigating its allegations. They have until next month to file a response in court.
"At first blush we don't believe the hospital is culpable for any inappropriate activities of Dr. Reardon as they may have been alleged in the complaint," said Barry Feldman, senior vice president and general counsel for St. Francis.
Edwards said last week's announcement of the child porn stash brought back horrible memories for many of Reardon's patients, including his client, who says he was abused in the mid- to late 1970s when he was 12 to 14 years old.
"There's obviously a lot of pain and a lot of embarrassment," Edwards said. "This is something that he as well as many of the other people have tried to deal with by forgetting about it.
"There's obviously now a lot of anger, a lot of desire to get answers to the questions about why this was permitted to take place in the hospital for so long without any apparent oversight," Edwards said.
Edwards said his client, who is now in his 40s and still lives in the Hartford area, went to Reardon not because of a medical condition, but to take part in a medical study of children. He said many other children saw Reardon under that pretense as well.
Edwards believes there never was a study, that it was just a ploy to get patients to expose themselves to Reardon.
The lawsuit alleges Reardon repeatedly abused Edwards' client at his office at St. Francis after hours and on weekends. It says Reardon put a mask over his head, photographed him naked, forced him to masturbate and made him remain naked for long periods so Reardon "could obtain sexual gratification."
"As a result of Reardon's reckless sexual battery, the plaintiff has suffered bodily intrusion and severe emotional injuries, some or all of which may be permanent," the lawsuit says.
Edwards said his client is seeking a substantial amount of money in damages, but the exact figure has not yet been determined.
Feldman, of St. Francis, said the hospital has set aside a toll-free number, 877-288-5774, for anyone who believes they were a victim of Reardon, and is working on counseling and support programs.
The hospital also is pursuing possible mediation or arbitration processes to deal with any similar complaints, in an effort to avoid lengthy and costly court proceedings, Feldman said.
"We sympathize with and our hearts go out to the victims, and again we were as shocked and dismayed at the recent discoveries as everyone else was," Feldman said.
Reardon began working at St. Francis in 1963. The state suspended his medical license in 1993 while investigating sexual abuse allegations.
The Connecticut Medical Examining Board later in 1993 reinstated Reardon's license, but with the condition that he not treat patients younger than 18. Reardon retired in December 1993.
State prosecutors said they never filed criminal charges because the crimes were too old to prosecute under the statute of limitations.
In the mid-1990s, St. Francis officials cast doubt on the alleged victims' credibility and insisted there was no evidence to substantiate the accusations.
The hospital released a statement that reads: "Our sympathies go out to any families who may have been victims of any inappropriate activity by Dr. George Reardon. At the time, Saint Francis fully cooperated with all federal and state authorities involved in this matter. Immediately following the state's suspension of Dr. Reardon's license in July, 1993, Saint Francis suspended his privileges to practice at our Hospital."