Over 130 people who say they were molested at a school in Haiti connected to Fairfield University, have settled a lawsuit for $60 million, pending approval by a federal judge in Hartford.
The Jesuit university agreed to the settlement with several other defendants, including the Haiti Fund, the Society of Jesus of New England, the Order of Malta, and others that had supported the now-defunct charity, Project Pierre Toussaint.
The lawsuit claimed that the Haitian school's founder, Douglas Perlitz, molested over 100 boys while operating the facility, which housed and taught children as young as six. Perlitz is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence for the abuse after being convicted in 2011.
Perlitz graduated from Fairfield in 1992 and was the university’s commencement speaker in 2002, years after the Haitian school opened. The university also honored Perlitz with its humanitarian award and an honorary degree.
The lawsuit also named the university’s then-director of campus ministry, Father Paul Carrier, who was alleged to have been responsible for supervising Perlitz.
School officials denied they did anything wrong, according to court records, but lawyers for the victims said there were many warning signs that should have alerted Fairfield University and the other defendants to the abuse.
Attorneys for the victims initially sought $120 million in damages and legal fees.
The suit represents the latest development in abuse cases involving priests or clergy with ties to the Catholic Church. Earlier this week, the Hartford Archdiocese released a list of 48 priests who have been credibly accused of abusing children. The archdiocese also reported that it had paid out over $50 million to settle over 140 cases of abuse.
Also this week, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., proposed legislation that would add clergy to the list of mandatory reporters, who are required to alert authorities to suspected abuse.
Correction: An earlier audio version of this story stated that the Haitian school was operated by Fairfield University and that Perlitz was appointed by the university. These are allegations made by the plaintiffs. The university says they are incorrect.