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A Charleston, S.C., jury has ordered a private school and the estates of two former school administrators to pay $105 million to the father of a young man who was molested while a student at the school. But even if the verdict is upheld, the plaintiff can collect no more than $4.25 million because state laws granting charitable immunity to schools will limit the hit against the Porter-Gaud School to $250,000, and the school’s available insurance on the actions of its administrators totals $4 million. THE FATHER’S WRATH The plaintiff, Harold Glover, sued Porter-Gaud, former principal James Alexander and former headmaster Berkeley Grimball after learning that his son Guerry had been molested at the academy two decades earlier by teacher Eddie Fischer. The sexual abuse started in 1975, when Guerry Glover was 9, and continued for years, said plaintiff’s attorney Gregg Meyers of Charleston. Fischer was a teacher at Porter-Gaud from 1972 to 1982. Guerry told no one, said Meyers: “At age 9, he didn’t have the vocabulary to express what was happening. Later on, he was too ashamed.” In 1997, Meyers said, Guerry, by chance, spotted Fischer driving around Charleston with a young boy, “and he realized what it meant. He tried to get Porter-Gaud to help get Fischer out of teaching, but they did nothing.” He then contacted Meyers. “Within three weeks, Fischer was out of teaching,” the lawyer said. Glover then brought the case to the county prosecutor and the news media. “Fischer was arrested, and 12 other boys came forward,” Meyers said. Fischer is now in jail, convicted of sexually abusing 13 students, said Meyers. But, Meyers noted, Guerry did not file a lawsuit against the school at that time. Glover and his lawyers “tried to get the school to work with us. But the school decided to fight,” Meyers said. While Meyers was putting together the evidence of Fischer’s actions at the school, the current Porter-Gaud administrators, Meyers alleged, “tried to get me fired from my firm.” Meyers did leave the firm, Charleston’s Pratt-Thomas, Pearce, Epting & Walker, but was not forced out, he said. In 1998, Guerry’s father, Harold Glover, filed first, charging negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and loss of consortium. Glover v. Porter-Gaud School, No. 98-CP-10-613 (Charleston, S.C., C.P.). In September this year, Guerry filed his own lawsuit, which is now pending. By the time of the trial, Alexander and Grimball were both dead. Alexander committed suicide just before he was about to give a deposition to the Glover attorneys. The school received its first complaint about Fischer in 1973, and the teacher was put on probation, said Meyers. “But they did nothing to monitor the guy.” In 1979, he added, another student tried to tell Alexander, but was persuaded not to press charges. Then in 1982, after the school received “an explicit sexual complaint by another parent, Fischer was allowed to resign,” said Meyers. Alexander and Grimball, he said, continued giving Fischer recommendations for years as he transferred to other schools. Fischer allegedly molested boys at these schools as well. Ultimately, Meyers said, the teacher admitted to molesting 38 different boys, including 28 at Porter-Gaud. Defense attorney Robert Stepp of Columbia, S.C.’s Sowell, Gray, Stepp & Lafitte declined comment, but during the trial, he contended that Porter-Gaud was not responsible for Fischer’s criminal acts. Porter-Gaud declined comment. The jury awarded $15 million in compensatory damages against all three defendants, and $90 million in punitives against the administrators. Insurance caps aside, Meyers said his client has a possible bad-faith action against the school’s insurance carrier: “We had offered to settle within the policy limits, but the insurance company declined.” Post-trial motions are pending.

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