Former Fairfield University chaplain Rev. Paul Carrier, S.J. has been accused in a civil lawsuit of sexually abusing a teenage boy at Project Pierre Toussaint in Haiti. Fairfield University has been named a defendant in the case on claims of negligent supervision, which is defined as a breach of duty to employees, children or adults.
Carrier was working at Fairfield as the director of campus ministry during the time period under investigation (1999-2005). Douglas Perlitz ‘92, the charity school’s founder, has also been cited as a perpetrator, in addition to the 2010 sentence where he pleaded guilty for one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct to Haiti.
According to the 26-year-old plaintiff’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian of Law Offices of Mitchell Garabedian, “The evidence has now shown that Fr. Carrier allegedly sexually abused a child, or children, and therefore we are proceeding in the civil court.”
The lawsuit stated the plaintiff’s name, but The Mirror generally does not reveal a victim’s identity.
“The plaintiffs feel that they have a substantial amount of evidence to prove their claims in court,” Garabedian added.
The lawsuit for the plaintiff was the first of two that claims Carrier as a perpetrator of sexual abuse. There are currently 41 pending civil lawsuits against Perlitz that also cite Carrier on claims of negligent supervision.
According to Timothy P. O’Neill, Carrier’s lawyer, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, as in all civil law cases.
“We deny any responsibility of [Carrier] for negligent supervision and we deny that he, and he denies, vehemently, that he ever abused even one student,” O’Neill said.
Besides Fairfield University, claims were also filed against Hope E. Carter, a national leader of the Order of Malta, Haiti Fund, Inc. and Society of Jesus of New England as defendants, on charges of negligent supervision.
“The whole issue will be the credibility of these cases many years after the case,” said O’Neill. “These allegations that emerge now … at least from our point of view, are highly suspect.”
In 2013, both Fairfield University and Carrier were accused in a previous lawsuit on the same claims, which alleged that 24 victims were sexually abused by Perlitz. Each victim sought more than $20 million, but the case was settled for $12 million.
Fairfield University attorney Stanley Twardy of Day Pitney, LLP dismisses any liability Fairfield has in the case, claiming, “Whatever Fr. Carrier was doing down in Haiti, he was doing on his own … He was not doing anything at the direction of or in connection with the University.”
In fact, Twardy said, even if Carrier is liable, his actions do not reflect the University in a legal setting. “If these allegations are true, it’s horrible, it’s horrific, but it does not impact the liability of the University,” Twardy said.
When asked if Fairfield should be responsible for the actions of its employees, Twardy said, “Only when they’re doing University functions.”
Speaking on liability, Garabedian said that the basis for proving negligence in any case is whether or not the supervisor should have known what was going on. In the accusation of Carrier’s negligence, Garabedian said, “he should have known.”
However, Twardy disagreed. “Speculation and ‘should haves’ are not part of the legal equation,” he said. “There was no negligence here on the part of the University.”
Carrier took a one-year sabbatical in 2006, but has not been affiliated with Fairfield since then, said Twardy. He added that Carrier was reassigned by the Society of Jesus of New England back in 2006, and not by Fairfield.
According to Twardy and Board of Trustees documents, Carrier helped raise funds for PPT through weekly collections at Sunday Mass in the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola. The documents also stated that students joined in missions Carrier organized to PPT.
Twardy, however, said that just because Fairfield gave money to an organization “does not make [Fairfield] responsible for what goes on in that organization, anymore than if you were to contribute $50 to Salvation Army, you’re not responsible for what goes on within Salvation Army.”
Amid accusations that Fairfield has not directly handled the allegations, Twardy said that the University “has taken this head-on” adding that University members “are just aghast as to what Douglas Perlitz did down there, period. But they’re not responsible for what went on down there.”
Perlitz was arrested in 2009 and sentenced in 2010 for sexually abusing boys at PPT and giving them necessities such as money, food and clothing, then threatening to expel the boys and take their amenities away if they spoke out.
ROLE OF UNIVERSITY
The lawsuit settled in 2013, Twardy explained, was not paid solely from Fairfield but was dispersed among the other defendants. The amount that Fairfield paid has not been disclosed.
Board of Trustees documents from 2013 state that Fairfield paid its part of the settlement through its insurance company, CHUBB, and so it has “not impacted … students or the programs” at Fairfield. These documents add that “the insurance carriers for the defendants wanted to enter into the settlement” in 2010. However, a decision was not reached in regards to settling any near-future allegations at the time the document was published.
According to Twardy, a lawsuit is settled to save time and expenses even if the people involved “are not necessary responsible,” adding, “that’s the case here.”
“The fact that Fairfield … made a business decision to settle a previous case is not applicable to what the facts are of these individuals and the claims that have come up here,” Twardy said. “The University has contested the charges and we will litigate this appropriately … with the expectation it will go to trial.”
Twardy added that if it does go to trial, “We feel that we have both legal and factual defenses to all the claims here. Fairfield had no legal obligation” to know about the abuse going on in Haiti.
According to Board of Trustees minutes from October 2009, Paul Kendrick ‘92, an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, was cited as leading the attack on Perlitz and Carrier. The same document stated that preparations would be made to amend any legal action against Carrier.
An attorney-client memorandum from Twardy dated November 2013 states that in 2009, Day Pitney conducted an internal investigation at Fairfield, and concluded that no one at the University had any knowledge of Perlitz’s actions in Haiti before April 2008. However, the memorandum notes that Carrier did not cooperate during the investigation.
Fairfield has made offers to help the victims from PPT since it closed in 2009 due to lack of funding, but there hasn’t been any “specific entity that has come around to help the former students there,” said Twardy. “There is no one organization that has come to the forefront and shown that it will be dedicated to helping victims.”
According to Kendrick, “When the first cries for help came from these children in Haiti, President von Arx and the Society of the Jesuits didn’t run towards them, they ran away from them … going against everything that our Jesuit education urges us to be.”
The Mirror contacted President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., but as of press time did not receive a response.
To view the September 2008 letter that Carrier signed denying Perlitz’s guilt, click here.