Bayside nurse wins $15M in suit

Bayside nurse wins $15M in suit
By Stephen Stirling

A Bayside nurse was awarded a record $15 million by a Queens Supreme Court jury Friday after she filed a suit contending Flushing Hospital let a doctor’s sexual abuse of nurses run rampant for more than eight years.

The jury found that Janet Bianco, 55, suffered years of abuse from Dr. Matthew Miller while she was employed at Flushing Hospital, at 45−00 Parsons Blvd., as a registered nurse from 1992 to 2001.

“While the jury’s verdict gives me a sense of vindication, it does not alleviate the emotional trauma that this has caused me,” Bianco said in a statement. “I have a message for anyone who is being sexually harassed: Make sure you speak out and complain — you don’t have to allow yourself to be a victim.”

According to court papers, Bianco said that over the course of her tenure at the hospital, Miller verbally harassed her repeatedly and, in 2001, forcibly groped her in a patient’s room as she struggled to get away. The court papers said Bianco told hospital administrators on numerous occasions about the abuse, going as far as to say that she “feared” Miller, but no action was taken until long after she left the hospital.

Miller had his medical licence suspended for three years in 2004 after not contesting Bianco’s claims that he had inappropriately groped and made sexual comments and advances toward her over several years.

Flushing Hospital, which noted Miller had admitting privileges at the hospital but was not a staff member, said in a statement it intends to appeal the decision.

Bianco’s attorneys, Rick Ostrove and Tom Ricotta, said the $15 million decision was a record for New York state and should send a clear message to employers that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

“It’s important for employers to know that they need to pay serious attention to sexual harassment,” Ostrove said. “You can’t just have a policy, you need to enforce it. Every employer has the obligation of making sure their employees feel safe at work.”

Ostrove said he is confident the decision will stand during the appeals process and noted that the hospital is responsible for his legal fees throughout the process.

“At some point, this hospital should just wake up and recognize that they allowed something horrible to happen on their watch,” he said. “The jury found that the doctor and the hospital should pay $15 million to my client. That’s a pretty clear message.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.