Dr. George Reardon

In this 1993 photograph, Dr. George Reardon listens to testimony at the Legislature Office Building on allegations that he sexually abused two people, a brother and sister, several years ago. (Michael McAndrews, Hartford Courant File Photo / October 26, 1993)

The attorney for one of Dr. George Reardon's victims asked a Superior Court jury Thursday for between $5 million and $8 million in damages because he said St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center failed to supervise a child growth study that Reardon used as a pretext to abuse the victim and hundreds of other children.

Damages were first mentioned Thursday as attorneys for the victim and the hospital focused closing arguments on their wildly divergent views of the central issue in the case: whether hospital negligence decades ago allowed Reardon to use his now discredited study as a pretext for abuse.

"If you don't have the growth study, you don't have the abuse," argued attorney Michael Stratton, representing the now middle-aged man whose suit is the first to reach trial of 93 filed by Reardon's victims.

Paul Williams, an attorney for St. Francis, countered that Reardon, a pedophile, had a capacity for deception so great that "there is no evidence of anything that could have been done to prevent the harm."

If the jury awards anything to the victim, Williams argued, then that amount should be "a small fraction" of what Stratton asked for.

Both lawyers argued at length in their summations about Reardon's interest in child growth rates, a subject that dominated the five-week trial.

Stratton said Reardon's decadeslong growth study was scientific research and, as such, should have been subject to approval and periodic review by the hospital. If it had been, Stratton said, Reardon and the so-called study would have been identified as sexually abusive frauds.

As a result, Stratton said, Reardon was able to subject the victim to what later was revealed to be the fictitious science he conducted in his hospital office. He said Reardon used the so-called study to abuse and photograph the victim and his siblings for eight years, beginning in 1975.

About the only points on which Williams agreed were that Reardon, who died in 1998, was once a St. Francis physician and John Doe 2 was once one of his patients.

Williams said Reardon's so-called study should not be characterized as research, but rather as the mere collection of data about the growth rates of children.

Because it was not medically intrusive or potentially dangerous research, Williams said the hospital should not have been expected to approve it, the step that would have triggered a hospital system for periodic surveillance of serious research involving human subjects.

Even if Reardon had submitted his so-called work and triggered the review process, Williams argued that St. Francis could not have been reasonably expected to have detected the abuse. He said that is because Reardon was an extraordinarily duplicitous pedophile.

For more than two decades, Williams said, Reardon used his public appearance as a successful doctor and teacher to hide his behavior from almost everyone, including the medical faculties at Yale University and the University of Connecticut.

"The system was set up for for people to act in good faith," Williams argued. "It was not set up to uncover criminal conduct. And George Reardon was a criminal."

Williams told the jurors that he doesn't believe they will have to discuss making a financial damages award to Doe because he doesn't believe they will conclude that hospital negligence contributed substantially to Reardon's abuse.

Among other things, Williams said that Doe's negligence claim is directed at the hospital's alleged failure to supervise Reardon and control his so-called study. He argued that Doe was treated by Reardon as a patient with a potential growth problem, not as the subject of the so-called study.

There was evidence earlier in the trial that Doe was referred to Reardon in 1977 by his pediatrician, as were many of Reardon's victims, after Doe's mother became concerned that he was not growing quickly enough. There also was evidence that Reardon photographed Doe with his siblings, who were part of the growth study

Williams also contended that Doe is relatively unscathed by Reardon's abuse. He said Doe has been unusually successful as a Connecticut firefighter and is involved in healthy family and social relationhips.

Stratton reminded the jury of a plaintiff's pychiatrist who described Doe as an emotional wreck whose anxiety, anger and need to control others contributed to the dissolution of his marriage.

When he testified earlier in the trial, Doe said that he became so inured to Reardon's treatment at such an early age — he was 9 — that didn't realize he was being abused until 2007, when photographs of him were discovered among 50,000 pornographic slides of children that Reardon had hidden in a false wall at his West Hartford home.

Stratton argued that St. Francis should have become suspicious of Reardon simply by the amount of film it was buying for him. Williams said that it was common for doctors at teaching hospitals in the 1970s and '80s to take photographs as educational aids.

The jury began considering a verdict at about 4 p.m. Thursday, after the hourlong summations and after Superior Court Judge Dan Shaban, presiding over the trial's fifth week, gave them instructions in applicable law.

Doe's suit against the hospital contains two counts for the jury to consider. Both accuse St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center of negligence that contributed substantially to Reardon's ability to abuse children.

The first contends that the hospital's failure to apply generally accepted scientific standards of review to research by Reardon resulted in the abuse of Doe. It also claims that St. Francis failed in a special duty under state law to provide care to vulnerable children in its custody, including Doe.

St. Francis denies both allegations.