It was a landmark moment in the long-running Yeshiva University sexual abuse case. For the first time, former Y.U. high school students who say they were abused confronted lawyers for Y.U. in court as their attorney argued against a motion to dismiss their case.
Flanked by family members, about a dozen of the former students filed into the Manhattan courtroom on the afternoon of October 27 to witness arguments that hinged on one key point: Should these students have filed suit decades before the Forward published its first article about their abuse, in December 2012?
Y.U. lawyers said the students, who were abused during the 1970s and ’80s, should have launched their own investigation or reported their abuse to the police before the statute of limitations expired. In New York State, child victims of sexual abuse have until they turn 23 to report abuse.
Kevin Mulhearn, who represents 34 former Y.U. high school students, including all those present in court, said that because Y.U. ignored student complaints and maintained that George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon were men of good character — even after the university was warned of abuses — the students had no way of knowing that they had a chance of bringing a successful claim.
The students are now suing Y.U. for $380 million.
Some of the men, who were mainly in their 40s and 50s, looked tense. At least one former student flew in from Florida for the two hours of oral arguments.
At times, the former students’ frustration audibly bubbled up, as lawyers representing Y.U. argued that the former students’ claims should be dismissed.
Karen Bitar, a lawyer representing Y.U., said she wanted to make clear that “we do not think these allegations are in any way insignificant, unimportant or unserious.”