An elite private school in Brooklyn has settled a lawsuit filed by former students who accused school officials of covering up the sexual abuse they suffered decades ago from a popular, now-deceased football coach.
Poly Prep Country Day School and the attorney for the 12 plaintiffs confirmed in a joint announcement that the parties had reached a settlement in the high-profile federal lawsuit stemming from the conduct of coach Philip Foglietta, who died in 1998 after working at the school for 25 years.
“We hope that the settlement brings a measure of closure to those members of the Poly community who were abused by Philip Foglietta, who was employed by the school between 1966 and 1991,” Poly Prep Headmaster David Harman said in a statement included in the announcement. “Poly Prep has established itself as a model for the prevention of abuse to those within our care and we will do everything in our power to insure that nothing like this ever happens again,”
Kevin Mulhearn, an Orangeburg solo practitioner and Poly Prep alumnus, stated for the plaintiffs that “this is the end of a long and difficult journey for these 12 plaintiffs who were victimized many years ago. Both the litigation and the settlement process were quite contentious but in the end both sides were able to achieve a measure of peace and healing through compromise.”
The settlement’s terms are confidential, Mulhearn said in an interview.
However, one of the plaintiffs, Philip Culhane, a Hong Kong–based Simpson Thacher & Bartlett M&A partner, said in a personal statement that the settlement “is complicated and contains elements that are confidential now but will be public soon. I am confident that as we move forward and the contours of the settlement become known it will be clear that this litigation will have achieved a great deal, for the plaintiffs, for reconciliation within the Poly community, for the school and its ability to move forward as a strengthened institution and for the wider community. We are all bettered, our children safer, when we call to account and then find a path forward.”
Asked about Culhane’s observations, Mulhearn declined to elaborate on his own comment.
The agreement was executed on December 21, capping about eight months of settlement talks. The process was “contentious” and “not easy,” Mulhearn said.
“My guys needed closure,” he said, adding, “It was extraordinarily emotionally grueling and my guys needed to move on with their lives and I’m hopeful they are going to be able to do that.”
Mulhearn added, “I think there are a lot of excellent people at Poly Prep. I’m happy for them this matter is behind them as well.”
Mulhearn credited the school’s attorneys in the settlement talks: Michael Kalmus of Kurre Levy Schneps on Long Island and Anthony Tagliagambe of London Fischer in Manhattan—who both graduated from the school 11 years before Mulhearn.
The school’s attorneys added “an element of candor and trust” and “were honest brokers interested in a fair resolution,” said Mulhearn.
Neither Kalmus nor Tagliagambe could be reached for comment yesterday.
The plaintiffs in Zimmerman v. Poly Prep Country Day School , 09-cv-4586, are 10 alumni and two former summer camp participants.
The suit, filed in October 2009, said Foglietta’s abuse spanned a 20-year period, from 1966 to 1986. It argued school administrators, faculty and board members “fell woefully short of Poly Prep’s own high ‘character’ mandate by engaging in a conspiracy to conceal and cover up the prolonged and horrific sexual abuse of many of its sons.”
Each plaintiff sought $20 million in damages.
He ruled 11 of the 12 plaintiffs could go forward with state law negligence claims, along with claims of violations of the Title IX prohibition on sexual abuse.
Jeffrey Kohn of O’Melveny & Myers represented the school on its motion to dismiss, with Howard Heiss, Shiva Eftekhari and James Miller also appearing on the brief.
The settlement averted a February hearing on the question of whether the school could be equitably estopped from invoking New York state’ three-year limitations to sink the lawsuit.
Both sides noted Eastern District Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak’s efforts in helping to resolve the case.
Mulhearn said that about a week before the settlement was executed, attorneys for both sides appeared before Pollak in a sealed courtroom and “banged out” the terms, which the parties then reviewed in the following days.
Culhane said in his statement that “a long and fiercely contested litigation has ended and I think both sides have a measure of satisfaction. Poly has acknowledged Foglietta, has taken ownership for the first time. This is meaningful, the picture fuller now and life and history can resume.”
Separately, two insurance companies filed an Eastern District suit seeking a declaration they have no duty to defend or indemnify the school in the ex-students’ suit.
The lawsuit from the companies, Aetna Casualty and Surety Company—now known an Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America—and the Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford was filed before the settlement was executed.
The suit, filed Dec. 6, is Aetna Casualty and Surety Company of America v. Poly Prep Country Day School , 12-cv-6015.
@|Andrew Keshner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Tom Huddleston Jr. of The Am Law Daily, an affiliate, contributed to this report.