SARANAC LAKE - The lawyer for a local pediatrician will appeal a malpractice verdict against her client.
Karen Butler represents Dr. Patricia Monroe of Adirondack Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Saranac Lake. She's asking U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn to overturn an award of $11 million to a pair of former Lake Placid teenagers.
Last week, an eight-member federal jury determined that Monroe failed to act appropriately in preventing repeated sexual assault against the victims nine years ago.
The now 18-year-old sister will receive $6 million, and the 16-year-old will get $5 million. The sisters were represented by Albany attorneys Pamela Nichols and Stephen Coffey.
In a release issued by the attorneys, it's stated that the jury found Monroe and Adirondack Internal were "negligent in their care and treatment of the children when they failed to take the proper measures to investigate a situation which would have prevented the girls from being sexually assaulted by their half brother."
The case dates back to August 15, 2000 when one of the sisters wrote in her diary that her then 14-year-old half-brother was touching her inappropriately.
The mother then obtained counseling for her children and separated the girls from their half-brother. She then called Dr. Monroe and informed her of the abuse.
Butler said she believes both Monroe and the mother didn't know what was happening.
The mother - who lives in Lake George - told the Post-Star newspaper that she expected Dr. Monroe would address the allegations.
"I didn't know what to do about it," she said.
Butler said the case is a prime example of why the state needs to reform medical malpractice laws and state laws regarding teenage sex abusers.
"Unless they do something about tort reform in New York, they're going to force all of the doctors and pediatricians out of state," she told the Post-Star.
When the mother finally brought the older daughter to the doctor's office, it was about a month later - and the abuse was not discussed then.
Butler said the conversation didn't take place because Dr. Monroe wanted to discuss it in the proper setting. And the doctor's hands were tied, because the girl didn't discuss the allegation of abuse. Child Protective Services in New York only takes calls involving adult-on-child crimes.
In February 2001, police were contacted and the half-brother was taken into custody. That's when one of the sisters revealed all of the details surrounding the alleged abuse.
The teenage suspect was tried in Family Court and was sentenced to one and a half years at a juvenile detention center.
An original claim was dismissed in November 2008. Coffey argued that Dr. Monroe and the practice failed to act according to New York State's mandatory reporter law. At the time, the court said the incident was only reportable if Dr. Monroe thought the mother was unable to protect the children herself.
But an appeals court later claimed that Dr. Monroe did not act in accordance with her responsibility to assure the children were safe from abuse.
Butler said she is also preparing an appeal to be filed with the U.S. Second Court of Appeals in New York City.