Two Lake George teens have been awarded $11 million for a doctor's decision not to report that they had accused their half-brother of sexual abuse.
A U.S. District Court jury returned the verdict Thursday on behalf of the young women, sisters ages 16 and 18.
The older teen was awarded $6 million; the younger one, $5 million.
The verdict came after a 10-day trial before U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn that focused on the actions, and alleged inactions, of Dr. Patricia Monroe of Saranac Lake in 2000 when the girls, their mother and half-brother lived in that area.
Monroe was accused of failing to take action when the girls' mother disclosed to her that the girls' then 14-year-old half-brother had sexually abused one of them. Monroe was alleged to have told the mother to keep the girl separated from her brother.
Monroe examined the other girl for a medical problem months later, but did not ask her about any possibility of abuse.
In all, abuse of the two girls was alleged to have occurred between 1999 and 2001.
Under state law, doctors are among a group of professionals considered "mandated reporters" who are obligated by law to call the state child abuse hot line when they have reason to believe a child is being abused.
The doctor was found to have breached her duty in failing to report the sexual abuse, allowing it to continue. Police were notified several months later, although it was unclear whether the half-brother was prosecuted.
The girls were "severely and permanently injured and damaged" by the abuse and the inaction to protect them, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit had also initially named Essex County, two school districts and a crisis center as defendants, but the claims against them were dismissed before trial and they were not part of the verdict.
The claim against Monroe was also dismissed at one point, but later reinstated by an appeals court.
A lawyer for Monroe, Kelly Butler, said the verdict will be appealed and the defense lawyers believe it will be reversed.
"Dr. Monroe denies liability and we think we have a good chance on appeal," she said.
She said the case is a prime example of the need to reform the state's medical malpractice laws. "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 said.
Calls to the teens' lawyers, Pamela Nichols and Stephen Coffey, were not returned Monday.