$680M Yeshiva U. Abuse Case Tossed by Judge

Lawyers for Victims Vows Appeal of 'Disgrace' Ruling


By Paul Berger

Published January 30, 2014.
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Citing New York State’s statute of limitations, a federal judge has dismissed a $680 million lawsuit brought by former students of Yeshiva University’s High School for Boys in Manhattan.

“Statutes of limitations strike a balance between providing a reasonable time for victims to bring their claims while assuring that defendants have a fair opportunity to defend themselves before evidence is lost or memories fade,” United States District Judge John G. Koeltl, wrote in a 52-page decision that was published January 30. “In this case, the statutes of limitations have expired decades ago, and no exceptions apply.”

Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer for the students, vowed to appeal, calling the judge’s decision “a disgrace and an abomination.”

“My clients deserve far better than this,” Mulhearn said. “The court basically is congratulating Yeshiva University High School for succeeding in its multi-decade cover-up of sexual abuse.”

Nineteen former students of Y.U.’s Manhattan boys high school filed a lawsuit against Y.U. in Jul, 2013.

The students alleged a “massive cover-up of the sexual abuse of [high school] students…facilitated, for several decades, by various prominent Y.U. and [high school] administrators, trustees, directors, and other faculty members.”

By the end of last summer, the number of plaintiffs had risen to 34.

In New York, child victims of sexual abuse have until their twenty-third birthday to bring a claim.

Y.U.’s lawyers argued that the former students, now mostly in their 40s and 50s, waited decades too long to bring their lawsuit.

But Mulhearn argued that the statute of limitations did not apply, because Y.U. covered up the abuse.

Earlier this year, Koeltl denied Mulhearn’s request to seek discovery of internal Y.U. documents that Mulhearn said would allow him to prove his case. Koeltl said that Mulhearn had to survive Y.U.’s motion to dismiss the case before discovery could begin.

Koeltl’s decision to dismiss the case comes at a time of severe financial difficulties for Y.U.

Y.U. has struggled since the economic crisis of 2008 and after losing $100 million dollars to Bernard Madoff, chairman of the board of Y.U.’s business school.

In 2012, Y.U. had an operating deficit of $106 million. Earlier this month, the ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Y.U.s debt to junk status.

Although uncertainty related to the lawsuit contributed to Moody’s pessimistic outlook for Y.U., the ratings agency was most concerned by the institution’s fiscal management “and lack of a clear strategy to regain financial equilibrium.

Contact Paul Berger at berger@forward.com or on Twitter @pdberger


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