Two more men who say they were sexually molested by Dr. George Reardon filed lawsuits Thursday against St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, claiming the hospital was negligent in its supervision of the doctor during the 30 years he practiced there.
In the latest suits, the men say Reardon fondled and photographed them in his private St. Francis office during the 1970s or early 1980s. One suit claims Reardon took as many as 1,000 "sexualized" pictures of the plaintiff, both alone and posed with his three brothers.
The suits follow last week's revelations by West Hartford police that a homeowner renovating his basement had discovered a stash of pornographic slides and 8mm films hidden in a false wall of his basement. Police traced the images to Reardon, who owned the house on Griswold Drive until his death in 1998.
Susan K. Smith, an Avon lawyer who filed the suits, said she expects to file lawsuits against St. Francis on behalf of at least 14 more clients. She said she suspects at least some of those clients are represented in the slides found in Reardon's former home.
Paul Edwards, a lawyer with the Stratton Faxon law firm in New Haven, which brought the first suit against St. Francis Monday, said he plans to file suit next week on behalf of at least a dozen more alleged victims.
Since last week, more than 80 people have come forward claiming that Reardon molested and photographed them during medical examinations or while they served as subjects in what he claimed were studies of human growth and development. Some complaints date back to the 1950s.
"It is not unusual for these perpetrators to perpetrate for an entire lifetime and collect victims like this," Smith said. "The perpetrators are so good, they charm the children right out of the arms of their mothers."
Smith said some victims told their parents or others of the abuse, but were not believed. Others, she said, were silenced by fear.
"There's a great fear of being disbelieved. The reason people are coming forward now is because it is so clear by the numbers that this happened. They know now that they're going to be believed," she said. "So this is a very validating event for them. It's upsetting, but it's also validating."
One man, now 46, and identified only as "John Roe #2," lived with his parents in Enfield and was brought to Reardon's office in 1973 for treatment of hypoglycemia and delayed maturation. He was in the sixth grade at the time.
On two or three separate occasions from 1973 to 1977, the man claims, Reardon admitted him to the hospital to monitor his blood sugar levels.
During stays which lasted from 10 days to two weeks, Reardon or others brought the boy every day from the hospital ward to Reardon's private office, the suit claims. Sometimes the visits occurred during the day and lasted for many hours.
On other occasions, Reardon "removed the minor plaintiff from his bed late at night and wheeled him down to his private office," the suit claims. Once, the boy asked Reardon to help him call his mother from a pay phone in the hall, the suit contends. But Reardon refused and they continued on to his office.
When he was not in the hospital, the boy had appointments in Reardon's office and exam room for medical follow-up or participation in a growth study. During each of the visits, Reardon fondled the boy's genitals and photographed him naked, the suit alleges.
The suit also claims Reardon took sexually provocative photographs of John Roe #2, either alone or "posed in a sexual tableau with his brothers."
The second man to file suit Thursday, identified as John Roe #1, was treated by Reardon only as an outpatient, but told a similar story. That man, also from Enfield, is 41 now. He claims to have been abused from 1979 to 1981, when he was about 14 or 15.
Smith alleges in the suits that St. Francis bears responsibility for the abuse because it failed to properly supervise Reardon, who was an employee of the hospital.
The suit states that administrators and doctors at St. Francis "knew, should have known, or could have known upon investigation" that Reardon's actions were unusual or inappropriate, including his decision not to use the hospital's photography lab to develop film, and his failure ever to publish the results of his so-called growth studies.
The suit also maintains that St. Francis failed to establish protocols or guidelines to protect patients participating in the studies. The suit says the hospital also should have known that Reardon was seeing patients after hours and on weekends; taking children out of their hospital beds at night; driving children to the hospital in his personal car; and locking children in his private office without parental supervision.
Barry Feldman, general counsel and senior vice president of St. Francis, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office. But the hospital has maintained that it knew nothing of Reardon's activity until 1993, when state health authorities moved to revoke Reardon's medical license. Eventually, after several high-profile hearings, Reardon, then weakened from heart and lung disease, voluntarily surrendered his license and retired from St. Francis.
In a full-page advertisement published in The Courant Thursday, St. Francis President and CEO Christopher M. Dadlez said the hospital is looking into "alternatives for resolving this matter in a way that will be prompt and fair to all parties."
Contact Hilary Waldman at email@example.com.