$11 million verdict against pediatrician

by Ted Frank on September 14, 2009

Two sisters were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by their older half-brother. This is, a federal jury decided, the fault of their pediatrician, Dr. Patricia Monroe, who failed to report the abuse–though there was no evidence she was aware of the scope of it. Monroe’s attorney “says that’s because the girl refused to speak to Monroe and because the incident wasn’t reportable to Child Protective Services.” The decision will be appealed. (Chris Knight, “Monroe to appeal $11M verdict”, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Sep. 3).

A message has been sent: make defensive reports to Child Protective Services, and parents will all be worse off when CPS overreacts.

{ 13 comments }

1 Frank 09.14.09 at 11:53 am

We read in the article that the mother contacted the doctor in August 2000. At that time the mother advised the doctor that the brother (offender) had been separated from the sisters (victims).

Within 6 months, by February 2001, the offender is arrested.

I’m still not sure what the doctor did or did not do that would have had any impact on what occurred to the victims.

2 E-Bell 09.14.09 at 1:57 pm

From the article:

The girls’ claim that Monroe should have reported what their mother told her to Child Protective Services was dismissed in a November 2008 U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Stephen Coffey, the victims’ attorney, had argued that Monroe and Adirondack Internal Medicine had violated their duty under New York’s mandatory reporter law to report the suspected abuse.

But the court in November found the abuse would only have been a reportable incident if Monroe thought the girls’ mother was incapable or unwilling to protect the children from potential abuse.

“The evidence shows that, at the time of the initial reports of abuse, Dr. Monroe had no reason to believe (the mother) was neglecting her duty to protect her daughters from abuse,” that decision reads. “With the information she had at the time, Dr. Monroe did not have a duty to report under New York’s mandatory reporting laws.”

However, that same ruling overturned an earlier dismissal of the case against Monroe and opened the door for a malpractice claim against her and the medical group.

The appeals court judges said there was a “triable question of fact” as to whether Monroe breached her duty to exercise due care by failing to follow up or investigate the steps the mother was or was not taking to protect her daughters from the abuse. The decision left it up to a jury to decide whether that failure was the “proximate cause” of the girls’ injuries.

Also, notably:

The initial lawsuit, which was filed in 2002, named other defendants whom the girls’ mother had contacted for help, including the Lake Placid Central School District, then-Lake Placid Middle/High School Principal Robert Schiller, then-school Psychologist Randy Quayle, Essex County, St. Agnes Parochial (Catholic) School and the Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. But those “mandated reporter” claims were ultimately dismissed.

So the doctor didn’t breach any duty to report the case to anyone else (and neither, apparently, did anyone else – including those who may have arguably had a greater duty), but it was somehow an issue of fact that she had committed malpractice?

It’s medical malpractice not to follow up with the mother about what she’s doing or not doing? Is this really a medical issue? Seems to me like it’s placing a burden on the doctor to be a policewoman or social worker.

3 nevins 09.14.09 at 2:04 pm

Is it too much to ask parents to start acting like parents and take care of their kids?
Allowing her daughters to be abused and then cashing in on it is probably not the mark of good parenting.

4 Bob Lipton 09.14.09 at 4:37 pm

Traditionally one of the reasons to have children is to support you in your old age.

Eleven million dollars will do that nicely. Good boy.

Bob

5 Doug 09.14.09 at 4:54 pm

Its not what the doctor did not do, rather what she and her practice had that is the issue. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

6 throckmorton 09.14.09 at 5:06 pm

If the pediatrician is accountable for 11 million how much is the parent accountable for? Can someone please explain to me how the pediatrician is responsible for these crimes? This just seems to be another attempt to extort money and to pass blame to wherever a buck can be made.

I can just see the precedent where every criminal will sue his pediatrician because they should have seen this future behavior.

7 A.W. 09.14.09 at 5:20 pm

I am not going to defend the verdict, but i am going to wonder what exactly the signs of trouble were supposed to be. i mean i don’t assume juries are completely nuts: they must have had some evidence motivating their decision.

8 Robert 09.14.09 at 7:59 pm

A.W. Juries are “completely nuts” when the case has to do with child sexual abuse. Logic goes out the window, and you get things like the McMartin trial.

9 WMDKitty 09.15.09 at 12:10 am

“because the incident wasn’t reportable to Child Protective Services.”

How is RAPE “not reportable to CPS”? Or is it only “reportable” when an adult is the perpetrator? …

I hope the girls get the counseling they need.

10 Commentor 09.15.09 at 7:33 am

From a legal viewpoint, if she didn’t violate any duty to report, what duty did she have? There cannot be a malpractice, i.e. negligence, claim without duty and breach. Take out the duty to report, and what duty could the jury have been instructed on?

11 SmartDude 09.15.09 at 8:01 am

The poor pediatricians are being enlisted as agents of an increasingly totalitarian state to do such immoral things as make records of guns in the house and monitor for “excessive religiosity.”

12 E-Bell 09.15.09 at 12:38 pm

Here is the aforementioned 2nd Circuit opinion.

13 Todd Rogers 09.15.09 at 8:44 pm

College, medical school, residency, fellowships, debt, insurance premiums, lawyers, juries, the threat of becoming a government laborer – all good reasons to become a scientist who heals the sick.

Comments on this entry are closed.