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An elite South Carolina college prep school hit two years ago with a $105 million judgment for failing to protect students from a teacher the school suspected to be a pedophile has settled 10 more lawsuits. But the insurance company that represents the estates of two headmasters subject to the same judgment is balking. The scandal and ensuing litigation at Porter-Gaud School, a Charleston prep school founded in 1867, led the South Carolina Legislature to extend the statute of limitations for bringing civil suits related to molestation. The legislation removes what attorney Gregg Meyers, who represented all the plaintiffs, said had been a major obstacle to bringing suit. Settlement of the 10 cases comes a year after nine other cases settled for $22 million. Details of the latest settlements were undisclosed, but state law limits the school’s liability to $300,000 per claim. The original case is Harold Glover v. Porter Gaud School, No. 98-CP-10-613 (Charleston Co., S.C., Ct. C.P., 9th Judicial Cir.). Glover, the father of a boy molested by Fischer, died shortly after the case concluded. Two former headmasters, Berkeley Grimball and James Bishop Alexander, were found grossly negligent in the original suit. Grimball, an elderly man with a heart condition, died of natural causes. Alexander committed suicide, which he attributed to the litigation in his final note. “The insurance company is trying to argue that the estates intended to harm the children, so there is no coverage and if there is no coverage, we can’t reopen the case,” Meyers said. “It is a ridiculous position. In South Carolina you not only have to take an intentional act to be outside of coverage, you have to intend the resulting harm. The Church Insurance Company is saying Alexander and Grimball intended for Fischer to molest kids.” Glover’s estate has filed suit against the insurance company to pursue settlement with the estates of the headmasters. Estate of Harold Glover v. Church Insurance Co., No. 01-CP-10-4883 (Charleston Co., S.C., Ct. C.P., 9th Judicial Cir.). “The position of Church Insurance is that these estates should not be reopened to allow these tort claims to proceed,” said Margaret Warner of the Washington, D.C., offices of Chicago’s McDermott, Will & Emery, which represents Church Insurance. “The company’s position is based on a South Carolina statute which states the plaintiffs first have to show the claims are not barred by the statute of limitations,” Warner said. “There are also issues relating to whether there is insurance coverage available.” All of the cases are rooted in molestations committed by Eddie Fischer, who for 40 years taught in public and private schools in Charleston and is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of children. According to court documents, in 1973 a boy at Porter-Gaud reported that Fischer had made a sexually suggestive invitation. Grimball, the headmaster at the time, put Fischer on probation, with the knowledge of Alexander, but neither man took any action to enforce the probation, nor was anyone on the school staff informed. In 1982 a youngster reported that Fischer molested him, and Alexander, who was then headmaster, fired Fischer but persuaded the parents not to press criminal charges. Alexander soon contacted the headmaster of another private school in a successful effort to get Fischer hired there. The scandal was revealed, causing the current tangle of litigation and the arrest of Fischer, when Glover filed suit. Despite the recent settlements, litigation from the scandal is far from over. In addition to the suit filed by Glover’s estate against Church Insurance, Porter-Gaud School has also filed suit against Church, contending the school has more coverage than the insurer states and alleging the insurer acted in bad faith for refusing to settle the Glover case. Board of Trustees of Porter-Gaud School and Porter Gaud School v. The Church Insurance Co., No. 2-01-4858-18 (D.S.C.).

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