Twenty-one new lawsuits filed last Thursday allege that Fairfield University and others failed to supervise Douglas Perlitz ‘92, who was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing boys at a school he founded in Haiti.
These new cases bring the total of lawsuits against Fairfield and others to 26, said the victims’ attorney, Mitchell Garabedian. The lawsuits demand $20 million for each victim.
The plaintiffs of the new lawsuits are ages 18 through 27, and they were abused from 2000 to 2008 at ages 10 to 20, according to Garabedian. Some were abused by Perlitz repeatedly, he added.
Garabedian is also investigating 30 other victims.
In addition to Fairfield, other defendants include Society of Jesus of New England and Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.
With a grant from the Knights of Malta, Perlitz founded the Pierre Toussaint School for street boys in 1997. Two years later, Haiti Fund, an organization led by former Fairfield Campus Ministry Director Fr. Paul Carrier, other Fairfield employees and wealthy Roman Catholics from the county, formed to oversee the school.
Allegations of sexual abuse emerged in 2007, but according to the law firm Day Pitney, Fairfield had no knowledge of the allegations until May 2, 2008. Project Pierre Toussaint has since closed down.
In 2010, Perlitz pleaded guilty to traveling to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with a minor.
Previously, 24 victims had filed lawsuits against Fairfield and others, alleging they were negligent in the supervision of Perlitz while he was in Haiti. Fairfield’s lawyer, Stanley Twardy, of Day Pitney, had said that Pierre Toussaint is separate from the University. The lawsuits were dismissed in July and a $12 million settlement was reached. Garabedian said he has received the total amount, and he is distributing it to the victims.
“It’s not unusual for victims who were sexually abused to feel alone and isolated,” said Garabedian. When victims learn of others stepping forward, “they feel a sense of empowerment,” and decide to pursue their own cases, he said.
These victims should be “commended,” Garabedian said.
Inquiries to Fairfield were referred to Twardy, who responded saying that the school has yet to be served their papers for the 26 lawsuits. Once they receive the papers, they will begin to respond, Twardy said.