Settlement in sexual abuse case dating from ’60s highlights issues of statute of limitations bar against victims.

December 28, 2012 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Ten former students and two former summer camp attendees of the top-tier Brooklyn private school, Poly Prep Country Day School, have reached a settlement in their sexual abuse case brought against the school. 

The original claim, filed in 2009, alleged that well-known Poly Prep football coach Philip Foglietta sexually abused the plaintiffs between 1966 and 1986.

While the terms of the settlement are confidential, Poly Prep’s headmaster David B. Harman told the New York Times, “We hope that the settlement brings a measure of closure to those members of the Poly community who were abused by Philip Foglietta.”

Foglietta, the school’s football coach from 1966 through 1986, was accused of groping and raping boys on campus and on school trips. The first incident occurred in 1966, and was reported to school officials the same year.

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William Jackson, one of the plaintiffs, and his parents took the accusation to school officials, who allegedly told the Jacksons that any further complaints against Foglietta would result in “severe consequences” for Jackson, who would also face expulsion from the school. Other plaintiffs alleged similar experiences.

The 12 plaintiffs, through their attorney, Kevin T. Mulhearn, brought their lawsuit against Poly Prep directly instead of Foglietta, who died in 1998.  The 2009 lawsuit asserted that despite the many allegations brought against Foglietta, Poly Prep continued to revere him as a successful coach, including creating establishing memorial fund and soliciting monies in his name.  

The lawsuit faced an initial snag due to a statute of limitations. In New York, survivors of sexual abuse as minors must bring claims by the time they are 23; many plaintiffs were over 23 at the time the case was filed.  

Last year, however, Federal Judge Hon. Frederic Block, allowed the case to proceed. Hon. Block ruled that because of the possibility that Poly Prep’s “affirmative misrepresentations or deceitful conduct was designed to keep [the] plaintiffs from gaining knowledge” necessary to bring a successful claim of abuse, the attempted scheme to cover of the decades of abuse allowed the plaintiffs to skirt the statute of limitations.

Though the statute of limitations no longer prevented the case from going forward, Hon. Block warned that the plaintiffs still faced “several hurdles.” Each separate plaintiff had to show how, in their individual case, Poly Prep school administrators covered up or summarily dismissed their claims of sexual abuse.

After three years of court battles, both parties have decided that a settlement would be mutually beneficial. Mulhearn, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the settlement “the end of a long and difficult journey for these 12 plaintiffs who were victimized many years ago.”

Poly Prep headmaster Harman noted “We will do everything in our power to insure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

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