Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Former Students File $380 Million lawsuit against YU for abuse coverup

Forward     Nineteen former students of a Manhattan high school run by Yeshiva University have filed a $380 million lawsuit against Y.U. accusing administrators and teachers of covering up decades of physical and sexual abuse.

The lawsuit, filed July 8 in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., alleges 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.”

The assaults are alleged to have taken place during the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when Y.U. faced severe financial problems.

In New York, criminal and civil cases of child sexual abuse must be brought before a victim’s 23rd birthday. However, Kevin Mulhearn, a lawyer representing the victims, argues in the suit that the statute of limitations does not apply because Y.U. fraudulently covered up the abuse. [...]

23 comments :

  1. No sympathy for abusers, but "fraudulent cover-up" just won't cut it. Victims knew at the time that they had been abused, and by whom. Will some New York lawyer please explain how they can now avoid the obvious?

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  2. go get those MO biryonim. hopefully clean them out since arko'oys is no issur according to them.

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    1. Stan, please try to make a scholarly contribution rather than fixating on arkaos all the time

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    2. Perhaps Torah Temimah will be next.

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  3. As you are an author on the halachos of abuse, i wish to ask if a lawsuit like this is in keeping with halacha.

    -ben dov

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    1. Gettig compensation of some sort e.g., therapy - is fine. However there is a need to go through beis din first.

      I don't see how the amounts being asked for would be justified. However if this is done through a peshara then theoretically much more than the cost of therapy is possible. Again - beis din is the first address

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    2. Besides the issur of archa'os, is there no concern for money of the tzibur? 380 million of tuition money and donations can be put to better use.

      -ben dov

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    3. Yearning for true Daas TorahJuly 9, 2013 at 5:05 PM

      By the letter of the law, I agree, but..

      When there is a PIRTZA, then Bais Din would have the authority and the responsibility to be MAKIN V'CHOVSHIN SHELO AL PI DIN, in order to bring law and order.

      Unfortunately, not only is that not happening, but the opposite is happening - the so called Torah authorities are penalizing the victims. This is not Chelm, it is Sadom!

      At a time like this, when a new HASHKOFO needs to be established to undo the lawlessness that has so far prevailed, the Botei Din should enact heavy heavy penalties for those MOSDOS that have aided and abetted abuse. This is called for L'MAAN YISHMEU V'YIRAU for all MOSDOS HATORAH.

      But we all know that we are sheppardless sheep - so what should we do?! We may not go to ARKAOS but we have no real Botei Din - no leadership. I throw my hands up in despair.

      I ask you, what should we do?! Please answer.

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  4. Name me 3. Qualified Batei dinim who are qualified to handle this type of lawsuit based on molestation and abuse and based on prior cases such as this one where there was no intimidation and thuggery involved.

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  5. Now we know why the Lakewood Rabbis don't want to apologize for treatment of Rabbi S. Plaintiff's exhibit A.

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  6. I would imagine that the amount is a result of two factors:
    1) The large number of claimants
    2) Lawyers love to ask for as much as they can
    But what would the purpose of beis din be? In America what power would they have to adjudicate this case and hand out penalties?

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  7. There is some irony in talking of beit din when most of the complainants are OTD and include among the claimed damages, iirc, 'irreparable harm to their faith and alienation from their family and community.' Obviously talking here about arcaos is irrelevant to most if not all of these plaintiffs.

    I am aware of a number of beit din rulings for damages, usually for therapy and usually in the range of $10k-$30k. In some of these cases it is quite plausible that the medical costs are much higher.

    However, I am concerned about a bigger picture. Sexual abuse would seem to have the potential to qualify for more than ripui. In some cases it could qualify for all five: Nezek, Tzaar, Ripui, Sheves and boishes. Certainly there are issues of pain and shame at the time that are damages not eradicable by paying for therapy down the road. At best, therapy can ammeliorate all additional shame and pain, and even that is obviously not always possibile or likely. Some of these plaintiffs refer to work incapacitation.

    I don't think there is any halachic stretch to say these damage categories are pertinent even if reasonable parties could disagree about how to measure it so it can be used to quantify the amount of compensation.

    I suspect that Marc Shapairo may be right, that dayanim still work with a very limited understanding of sexual abuse that minimizes its psychological importance. Somehow, in pragmatic sense they will concede the necessity of therapy for those victims who needs it. But they still feel like most people should be able to brush off abuse. They are more concerned about it as a violation of relgious law and tzniyus than understanding it as a trauma for many of its victims.

    At the risk of scandalizing some readers, I will say that abuse to the extent of some fondling, often by older boys, is definitely epidemic at this point in parts of the chasidic community, (e.g. Williamsburg & KJ) according to several informants. Which is to say most of the younger (and perhaps older) dayanim in those communiites have been foldled and assume that they got over it (which may or may not be true) and thus expect the same of others. In fact if dayanim work on the assumption of the phenomenon being epidemic they may feel that awarding in all categories of damages would have such gross financial consequences that it is unthinkable.

    Rabbi Eidensohn, I would be curious to know if my familiarity with beit din judgements jibes with yours.

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    1. Mr. Lopin,

      Do you or anyone know of a heter to violate archa'os if a litigant thinks a beis din will not grant as much money as he thinks he deserves?

      Would a Sanhedrin, with Moshe Rabeinu as Nasi, give 19 people 380 million dollars? If no, is it not theft to take more?

      -ben dov

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    2. Ben Dov,

      As Mr. Lopin observed, many of the complainants are no longer frum and are not interested in the Halachot of Beit Din.

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    3. Yes Mr. Lopin that is how I see the beis din judgements. However as I have noted before - it is really not clear what causes the trauma - not every one is traumatized and some people do in fact bounce back.

      Aside from the question of halacha - the question is what is accomplished by such massive judgments against institutions? If a person is incapacitated in some way by abuse - how does $20 million change that? In other words is the payment compensation for loss or is it punishment for the institution for not handling the complaints properly?

      Another important question is whether destroying an institution financially serves to protect other children against abuse? That in fact might be a more appropriate rationale - if it motivates other schools to take the appropriate measures.

      Rav Sternbuch told me that coverups made in order to protect the finanacial well being of yeshivas has no basis in Jewish law. "We don't sacrifice children for the well being of the yeshiva. That is the American way."

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    4. The fact that someone is not frum - doesn't change the halacha. The question raised was what the halacha is in these cases - not whether the people suing were interested in following the halacha.

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    5. These huge law suits are an American phenomenon, but this happened in an American institution. I presume that equally large suits were filed agasint the Catholic church.
      In England they just apologise and pay a few thousand in damages.
      But the large fines are also deterrents - perhaps the reasoning is, if religious institutions are not going to act morally, then we have to speak in a language they do understand - the holy Dollar.

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    6. Perhaps I should have more carefully separated my comment into two parts. 1. I should have added that I believe based on my limited understanding that this was a violation of the issur of arcaos, since I assumed they did not secure a heter arcaos.

      The bulk of my message concerned my perception that when battei din get abuse cases they are improperly limiting their assessment of the scope of damages.

      Let me add on, the question of the amount being sought is separate from the question of arcaos. As you observed, Rabbi Eidensohn, Rav Sternbuch does not disallow suits because they will financially destroy mosdos.

      I completely agree that the extent of harm of abuse vary highly among individuals. But I think we can agree that for some the effects are devastating and long-term. The question of the extent of long-term damage is something that courts, whether civil or halachic, determine on a case-by-case basis. Thus, I think we should not focus on the amounts, especially since these are opening gambits, and if there are settlements they will doubtlessly be much, much lower, especially since they are not likely to win their argument about suspending the statute of limitations.

      I would argue that regardless of long term damage, most sexual abuse involves pain and shame (tzar and boishes). So I return to that essential question- why do I not hear of beit din awards specifically for that factor? At a deeper level, are we dealling with a special insensitivity? If so it is important, not just because of its implications for awards by beit din. But also, because the very reason for ignoring it in beit din is related to leadership insensitivity to the bigger issue.

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  8. AS YL says most are OTD, they feel Orthodox Judaism has rejected them. They probably don't even know what BD is, & defiantly don't care, more so they have no trust either.
    Think about it who will be the BD? Those associated with YU? Impartial?
    Those from the Chareidim who vile YU? impartial?
    Has the YU institution always gone to D"T or have they used arkois, If that is the case, does anyone remember the psak of Reb Moshe when Yeshivas Chaim Berlin, claimed they are a moisad, & don't have to go to Din Torah. That was used against them in a bar Metra case with Veretzky Yeshiva, many years later.
    Same may apply here, A it isn't a person, but an institution, not Jewish one completely, if anyone remembers R' Mordchai Gifter's complaints.
    I am skeptical that no one would find a heiter arkois for many reasons here. Yet I don't know nor is it relevant.
    One thing I do believe that if YU is forced to pay that much money. YU will be history. It may be a good thing if institutions get shut for this.

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  9. Number one, YU won't have to pay anywhere near that much money, and number two, much of what they do pay (if they pay anything) will probably be covered by insurance.

    There'll be a motion to dismiss, based on the statute of limitations and other grounds. If the case survives that (far from a sure thing), discovery will follow. Depositions will be taken and documents will be requested.

    At that point, the two sides will have some idea of the strength of the case. That will be followed by settlement negotiations.

    YU could have avoided all this if it had just shown some due regard for the suffering of their own students.

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    1. Actually,

      Thanks to the Agudah and the Catholic Church, YU may be better off not having dealt with this. Those organizations prevented an extension of the NY Statute of Limitations in abuse cases.

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  10. Rabbi Eliyahu Rabovsky of the Young Israel of Boca Raton has welcomed Rick Andron into his synagogue after Rick Andron was expelled from the Boca Raton Synagogue publicly announced his expulsion from the Boca Raton Synagogue and his ban from entering the Boca Raton Synagogue and any program run by them.

    Rabbi Rabovsky of the Young Israel of Boca Raton has poskened no one may criticize Rick Andron for raping children. He has stated the board of directors may not question his decision. Rabbi Rabovsky states the rape accusations are true but he considers him a baal teshuva and that Rabbi Rabovsky has forgiven him for his sin.

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  11. Can't Boca Rabbi , who I believe is from N Miami Beach restrict his frothing mouth to criticizing the subject of this blog without "malshining" a good rav in the process?

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