St. Francis, 32 plaintiffs reach settlement in Reardon case

St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center has agreed to a settlement with 32 plaintiffs suing the hospital for negligence related to Dr. George Reardon, an endocrinologist who worked at the hospital for three decades and is believed to have sexually abused as many as 500 children.

The settlement came as a jury was scheduled to deliberate in the first case against the hospital. More than 90 cases against the hospital were expected to go to trial after previous settlement efforts failed. The settlement announced Monday covers clients represented by the New Haven law firm Stratton Faxon, including John Doe #2, the plaintiff in the first trial. More than 60 cases are still pending.

Details of the settlement are confidential, the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital said, “From the beginning of this tragedy related to the late Dr. Reardon, we have remained committed to resolving this issue as fairly as possible. With the trial of the first case, we believe that we have proven that Dr. Reardon was a master manipulator who deceived his patients, their parents, and his colleagues at the Hospital. We are prepared to prove that again in court, as necessary.”

Plaintiff attorney Joel T. Faxon said the settlement included the hospital and Travelers, which insured it.

“Our clients are very happy,” Faxon said. “And they feel that the settlement, the way that the case was resolved, makes them feel as though St. Francis has taken responsibility or admitted responsibility for something they should have admitted responsibility for a long time ago.”

Faxon said many plaintiffs were interested in the settlement as an alternative to facing years of trials and appeals. “People wanted to get this over with,” he said.

Reardon died in 1998. Lawsuits against the hospital alleged that it was negligent for failing to stop the abuse, and attorneys argued that the hospital failed to oversee the growth study Reardon used as a cover to abuse children. The hospital has said it did not know of the specific allegations against Reardon until 1993, when state officials moved to revoke his license.

Evidence of the abuse was discovered in 2007 when a homeowner renovating Reardon’s former West Hartford home found more than 50,000 slides and 100 movie reels of child pornography hidden in a wall.

The case gave rise to multiple efforts in the state legislature to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits in child sexual abuse cases. None have been successful.