St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford is nearing a settlement of seventeen pending lawsuits relating to horrific accounts of sexual abuse of children by a doctor there between 1963 and 1993. The hospital’s insurance company is attempting to limit liability by characterizing the claim as one of medical malpractice, rather than general liability. The hospital has already settled several dozen claims related to the doctor’s conduct, and it still faces at least forty-eight more lawsuits after these seventeen settle.
Dr. George Reardon began working at St. Francis in 1963, and became the chief of endocrinology in 1978. He had previously worked at a hospital in Albany beginning in 1956. A lawsuit filed in 1987 accused him of abusing a brother and sister, aged 5 and 7, for a period of at least five years at the Albany hospital.
Another lawsuit accused Reardon of abusing a boy at St. Francis while he was a patient between 1964 and 1965. The boy filed a lawsuit years later that settled for a “modest” amount. A suit filed in 1989 accused Reardon of abusing a 10 year-old girl in the mid-1970’s, and a complaint brought by the Hartford County Medical Association alleged abuse of a 14 year-old girl. The state medical board suspended his license in July 1993, but they reinstated it that November on the condition that he not treat patients under the age of eighteen without supervision by another doctor or nurse. Reardon retired one month later.
Most of the alleged abuse occurred with children participating in a thirty-year growth study run by Dr. Reardon. An FBI investigation in 1994 concluded that any alleged sexual abuse occurred outside of the criminal statute of limitations. St. Francis officials defended Reardon and maintained that the complaints lacked merit. Reardon died of a heart attack in 1998.
On May 20, 2007, the new owner of Reardon’s former residence, while performing renovations in the basement, found a collection of over 60,000 sexually explicit photographs of children. West Hartford police announced the find that November, stating that they would attempt to identify the victims. Former patients, mostly now middle-aged, almost immediately began to come forward with accounts of abuse while under Dr. Reardon’s care. The hospital and 135 former patients agreed to mediation in March 2008. After mediation failed, the lawsuits began. They now total more than ninety. Police would eventually identify more than 250 children in the photographs.