Dozens of former students who say they were abused by rabbis at a Yeshiva University high school waited decades too long to file their $380 million lawsuit, Y.U.’s attorneys say.
“There is no debate that the abuse each plaintiff endured, if true, is unacceptable,” the attorneys stated in a recent court filing. But “the law strikes a balance between the rights [the plaintiffs] could have exercised long ago, and the defendants’ competing rights to a fair opportunity to present evidence in their defense.
“The passage of time, fading of memories and passing of witnesses deprives defendants [of] a fair opportunity to defend themselves against plaintiffs who sat on their claims.”
Under New York State law, child victims of sexual abuse have until their 23rd birthday to file a civil lawsuit.
Kevin Mulhearn, who represents the plaintiffs in this case, argues that the statute of limitations does not apply, because Y.U. fraudulently covered up the abuse and misrepresented the safety of the school. Mulhearn’s clients are 34 former students of Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys, in Manhattan, aged 39 to 60. The former students are suing Y.U., current and former senior administrators, and trustees for $380 million in damages for abuses that they say took place between 1971 and 1992.
Last August, Mulhearn wielded the same argument to survive a motion to dismiss a similar case involving his alma mater, Poly Prep Country Day School, in Brooklyn. Poly Prep settled for an undisclosed sum last year with 12 men who said they were abused by the school’s former football coach, Philip Foglietta.
Y.U.’s motion to dismiss the case, which has been anticipated for several weeks, was filed September 13 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Karen Bitar, a lawyer for the firm Greenberg Traurig, which represents the defendants, anticipates that Mulhearn will rely on a ruling in the Poly Prep case to bolster his lawsuit.