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Hospital's letter about alleged abuser prompts lawsuit

Last year, former patients of a once-esteemed endocrinologist who had practiced at Rockefeller University Hospital received a letter stating that the hospital had evidence of multiple cases of sexual molestation by the growth specialist, who worked at the New York City research hospital from the 1940s until 1982.

According to the hospital, it had learned that the doctor had engaged in "inappropriate" behavior with a number of his patients -- mostly boys. Many patients were brought to him by parents concerned that they weren't growing at a normal rate. Among his treatments were growth hormones. However, there are numerous reports that the doctor touched boys in a sexual manner and took nude photos -- some of which were close-ups of their genitals.

The hospital acknowledged that it had first received credible allegations about the doctor's actions in 2004 -- three years before his death. They say they reported the allegations to New York prosecutors.

The New York Times did some investigating of its own after the letter went out. They interviewed 17 alleged victims. Most of them said they didn't realize they weren't alone until they received the letter. A few said they had reported the abuse to the hospital or other authorities, but that nothing was done.

Now a number of former patients, some of whom are in their 50s, have filed a class-action suit against the hospital. The suit was filed immediately after New York's Child Victims Act became effective. The new law extends the age at which alleged victims can sue for child sexual abuse up to age 55. However, for one year, which begins six months after the law went into effect on February 14, 2019, there's no age restriction for people who may want to sue.  So, from approximately August 14, 2019 to August 14, 2020 anyone who is a child victim of child sex abuse may commence a suit.

Interestingly, the lawsuit isn't for the doctor's alleged abuse. It accuses the hospital of traumatizing (or retraumatizing) victims decades after the alleged abuse occurred.

The lead attorney speculates that the purpose of the letter, which asks people to contact a law firm, was to determine how many might come forward to sue the hospital. He believes the reason for the delay between the hospital's admitted knowledge of the abuse and the notification of patients is that "14 years earlier there wasn't a prospect of the Child Victims Act passing...."

If you or a loved one was a victim of sexual abuse, it's essential to know how this law could impact you. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and support.

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