Settlements Help Trim St. Francis Case Docket – Earlier Verdict Helped Put Monetary Value on Molestation Lawsuits

January 15, 2012

In an effort to trim the state’s largest cluster of personal injury cases, Chief Court Administrator Barbara Quinn turned to Middlesex Superior Court Judge Robert J. Holzberg.

Right after a string of successes in settling five of the six wrongful death cases stemming from the Middletown Kleen Energy explosion, Holzberg has managed to negotiate settlements with eight plaintiffs’ firms representing a total of 25 men who sued St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.

The plaintiffs had said the hospital was negligent in its supervision of the late Dr. George Reardon, an endocrinologist who police believe victimized up to 500 children from the 1960s to the 1980s in his hospital office. While claiming that he was conducting growth studies of adolescents, Reardon was actually molesting children and taking nude photographs of them, authorities said.

Reardon died in 1998. When his former house in West Hartford was undergoing renovations, authorities found more than 50,000 slides and movie reels of Reardon’s patients and victims. That led to about 165 lawsuits, some of which were filed by individuals too old to fit within the statute of limitations.

About 96 actions were lined up for possible litigation when the first cases went to trial last year……Subsequently, attorney of Bridgeport’s Tremont Sheldon P.C., won a momentous $2.75 million jury verdict on behalf of a Hartford area insurance agent.

Current Wave

That hard dollar figure removed some of the air of pure conjecture about the potential value of the Reardon cases, and it may have facilitated the current wave of settlements.

The largest group, of 17 plaintiffs, settled just before Christmas. With the help of Judge Holzberg, another group of attorneys achieved settlements last week. The settlement process has been complicated by issues surrounding St. Francis Hospital’s insurance coverage that have made it unclear precisely how much insurance money is available. A separate federal case is proceeding to establish whether the claims should be covered by professional liability policies or general liability policies of the hospital.