Judge approves $60 million settlement in sex abuse lawsuit against Fairfield University
As many as 170 victims of a convicted pedophile who operated a Catholic school for boys in Haiti are eligible for a share of a $60 million settlement approved this week by a federal judge in Connecticut, according to attorneys involved in the case.
The agreement settles a class-action lawsuit alleging misconduct at Project Pierre Touissant School in Cap-Haitien by its founder, Douglas Perlitz, who is serving a nearly 20-year prison term for sexually abusing boys there.
Perlitz operated the now defunct school with financial support of Fairfield University in Connecticut, the Society of Jesus of New England, the Order of Malta — American Association, and Haiti Fund, Inc.
Under the settlement, those organizations, as well as Rev. Paul E. Carrier and Hope E. Carter, will pay the $60 million, according to a statement released Thursday by attorneys for the victims.
The agreement, which is scheduled to become final on Aug. 27, bundled individual lawsuits into a class action, according to the statement.
The suits alleged that Perlitz would frequently fly back to Fairfield, Conn., to raise money for the school. He used portions of those funds to groom his minor victims and to provide them with gifts or money in exchange for sexual acts, according to the victims’ attorneys.
The Haiti Fund and Fairfield University, which is operated by the New England Jesuit Order, knew Perlitz used substantial portions of such funds to pay for his trips to Haiti, according to the victim’s attorney.
The Haiti Fund is a now defunct Connecticut charity that helped raise money for the school. Such groups failed “to institute generally accepted safeguards — or any safeguards — to prevent the abuses which occurred,” the attorneys said in a statement announcing the settlement’s approval.
The proposed agreement involving misconduct at the school in Cap-Haitien stands out because it will benefit former students in one of the most impoverished nations in the world, the Globe reported in January.
In 2010, Perlitz pleaded guilty to sexually abusing at least eight children over a decade in Haiti and was sentenced to nearly 20 years in US federal prison.
“We are grateful that this process is in its final stages and will provide closure for these brave young men,” said Paul J. Hanly, Jr., an attorney representing the victims, in a statement. “The settlement will allow the survivors to move beyond these horrors, enable them to receive whatever counseling and aid they require, and move on with their lives, as best as they can.”