Articles Posted in Lawsuit Filed

A Ludlow woman who successfully pushed for new legislation extending the statute of limitations for alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits will get her day in court.

Kathy Picard, 52, has said previously she worked for 12 years to push a new bill extending the deadline for alleged victims to sue. The law changed the deadline from age 21 to 53. The bill was signed by former Gov. Deval L. Patrick on June 26, 2014, with Picard present.

The same day, she filed a $1 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court against her stepfather. A trial is imminent.

A former Roman Catholic priest has settled a lawsuit alleging that he later sexually abused a 14-year-old student student in New York and Boston, the former student’s attorney said Wednesday, as reported by the Times-Picayune and

Sean Leo Rooney served on the faculty at Archbishop Shaw High School from 1975 until 1979.

The lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian of Boston, said the former student disclosed Rooney’s abuse in August 2012. The acts occurred in Boston and New York. Rooney was a teacher at Goshen Junior Seminary in New York from 1979 through 1981, where he befriended the boy and encouraged the youth’s interest in photography, Garabedian said.

A lawsuit filed in Minnesota charges The Diocese of Crookston (Minn), the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts and the Servants of the Paraclete group with a dozen counts of nuisance and negligence in their handling of former Priest James Porter.

Porter admitted or was linked to the abuse of more than 100 young boys and girls, dating back to the 1950’s. This lawsuit involves the case of a unnamed Minnesota woman, now in her 50’s, who alleges that Porter, who died in 2005, molested her while he was a priest at St. Phillips parish in Bemidji in 1969 and 1970.

“And where she and her family had come to trust this very cunning, but very dangerous wolf in shepherd’s clothing, Father James Porter,” said Attorney Jeff Anderson.

The Boston Globe reports today that Stephen Embry has filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against Harvard University, contending he was repeatedly molested by a swimming coach at the campus from 1969 to 1972. The alleged abuse began when Embry, now 55, was barely 12.

Embry, along with his lawyer, Carmen Durso, also asserts that Harvard misled him about the statute of limitations on abuse claims, and failed to disclose a previous claim brought in 1996 against the university and the swimming coach, Benn Merritt.

The complaint against Harvard, filed by the brother of one of Embry’s closest boyhood friends, was dismissed. The suit against Merritt was resolved by settlement, court records show. A few months after the lawsuit was filed, Merritt killed himself in his Billerica home.

The Globe reports today that Embry first contacted a university lawyer shortly after recalling the abuse, and contends that Harvard did not disclose the prior abuse claim against Merritt to deter him from taking legal action.

“They told me they didn’t know anything about this, that it happened too long ago,” he said to the Globe. “They lied to me.”

Citing a 2010 letter to Embry from a university lawyer, Durso told the Globe that the university committed fraud by misrepresenting the state’s statute of limitation law.

“They had no legal duty to provide him with information” about the previous case, he said. “But they couldn’t mislead him, and that’s what they did.”

Under Massachusetts law, victims of sexual abuse typically must file a civil claim within three years after they were last abused, or three years after turning 18. Under the “discovery rule,” victims can also file a civil claim within three years of when they realized they had been abused, although defendants will often challenge this on statute of limitations grounds.

According to the Boston Globe, in 2010, Ellen Fels Berkman, a university attorney, told Embry that she had “been unable to find anyone who would support your suggestion that Harvard is legally responsible.”

“The time has long since passed for bringing a legal claim against the university,” she added.

That assertion, Durso says, was fraudulent, and discouraged Embry from pursing legal action.

In a statement issued Wednesday, university officials said “there was nothing to prevent” Embry from taking legal action, and that there was no evidence Harvard was aware of any abuse at the time.

Embry’s case and others like it that I am looking into underscore the need to relax the state’s statute of limitation laws. Victims may not realize they have been abused until decades later.

“The laws have simply not kept up with the reality of the trauma,” said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children.
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The Boston Globe reports that a Burlington woman has filed a civil lawsuit against her uncle, alleging that he raped her repeatedly as a child and subjected her to sexual abuse from 10 other men, before her family coerced her into signing an agreement absolving him from responsibility.

Rosanne Sliney, 48, filed a civil complaint in Middlesex Superior Court accusing Domenic A. Previte Jr., 70, of Waltham, of abuse and stating that he confessed to it years later in a signed letter to his niece. The Globe (and this blog) does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse but the Globe used Sliney’s name because she has chosen to go public with her allegations and she included her own name in the complaint.

“You were like a flower in springtime,” Previte wrote in the letter, according to a copy included in Sliney’s complaint. “I admired and respected you and loved you as my own daughter. . . . Somehow things got twisted. . . . I had confused my love for you with sex.”

A former Waltham Public Schools student has filed a lawsuit alleging that a former Waltham High School principal failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse by a teacher that could have prevented the teacher from abusing him. reports that former student and alleged victim, Michael Phillips Jr., in the lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court on Dec. 16, claims that former Waltham High School Principal and School Committee member-elect John Graceffa failed to act on prior reports of sexual abuse against students by Robert Dacey a former drama teacher at John W. McDevitt Middle School, who died in 2007 while he was awaiting trial on sexual abuse charges.

Graceffa currently works as the dean of students at Arlington Catholic High School in Arlington, according to the Boston Globe.

A van company hired by the Peabody School Department to transport students to a summer program has been sued on behalf of four children allegedly molested and assaulted by a bus monitor.

The lawsuit filed in September in Salem Superior Court alleges that Ameriken Caring Services of Revere failed to provide safe transportation to the children — three boys and a girl ages 9 and 10 — and failed to protect them by negligently hiring, supervising and retaining the monitor.

The Salem News reported that the children allegedly were touched inappropriately, pinched on the thighs hard enough to leave bruises, and suffered other physical abuse. The monitor’s name was not disclosed.