Today’s news:

Litigation Gone Mad

At a time when two Queens hospitals are ready to close their doors forever, it is beyond maddening that a jury should award a registered nurse $15 million for sexual abuse she allegedly endured at Flushing Hospital.

Janet Bianco, 55, said she suffered the abuse from Dr. Matthew Miller while employed at the hospital from 1992−2001. Bianco, of Bayside, claims she was verbally harassed and forcibly groped. Miller, who had admitting privileges but was not a resident doctor at the hospital, did not contest the charges and his license to practice medicine has been suspended for three years.

There is no excuse for the doctor’s alleged behavior. Likewise, it is difficult to understand why the hospital did not take action if, as Bianco claims, she complained to administrators on a number of occasions.

But nothing we have seen explains how a jury could decide to award this nurse $15 million. If the abuse was that horrendous, why didn’t Bianco quit or at least ask to work in another part of the hospital? If the abuse was that bad, why is the doctor not facing criminal charges?

If the hospital does not succeed in having the award reduced or overturned on appeal, this will be $15 million that will not be available to provide care for patients. It may mean doctors, nurses and technicians will lose their jobs.

But that appears of little or no concern to Bianco’s attorneys, Rick Ostrove and Tom Ricotta, who boasted that the $15 million decision was a state record. They said the verdict should send a message to employers that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

We beg to differ. An award of $50,000 might have sent that message. An award of $15 million sends a message that the legal system is out of control. As horrible as sexual harassment is, Bianco could have walked away a hundred times over a period of eight years. The newborn infants who come from all over the city to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit do not have that option.

If this verdict stands and if the hospital survives, Queens residents will pay the price each time they use Flushing Hospital.

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