Attorneys for five men who were allegedly sexually assaulted by their Stamford elementary school gym teacher four decades ago have settled their lawsuits for $3.25 million.
The men were among dozens who claimed Rogers Elementary School gym teacher Robert Martinez sexually assaulted them, according to Doug Mahoney, one of two plaintiff attorneys.
The alleged assaults took place in Martinez’s private offices at the school between 1977-1981, Mahoney said. The men, who are now between 49-51 years old, all filed suit against the Stamford Board of Education before turning 48 years old. Under Connecticut law, victims of childhood sexual assault have until their 48th birthday to file a civil suit. The state statute of limitations provides a five-year window to bring criminal charges.
The five suits had been consolidated, but the litigants Wednesday withdrew them from Bridgeport Superior Court as the parties reached the settlement.
Mahoney, a partner with Bridgeport-based Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney, said he believes the Stamford Board of Education settled the case because the plaintiffs were able to get around the statutes governing municipal immunity. The exceptions to municipal immunity, Mahoney noted, are that the school district had a duty to report the alleged abuse and that the boys at the time were in “imminent harm” or “identifiable victims.”
“It should have been obvious to the school that the kids were in danger,” Mahoney said. “They knew, or should have known, that this gym teacher was spending a lot of time alone in his office with children.”
Mahoney alleged “dozens” of children suffered abuse at the school.
But the accused former teacher, Martinez, has never been charged with a crime. He did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Mahoney said he deposed Martinez, now 68 years old and living in Palm Coast, Florida, for about seven hours. He said Martinez worked at Rogers Elementary from the early 1970s to 1982, and then went on to teach at other schools in the city before retiring in the mid-2000s.
“He denied everything,” Mahoney said.
Martinez’s attorney, Thomas Gerarde of Hartford-based Howd & Ludorf, did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Cindy Robinson, who is co-counsel with Mahoney and a partner at Tremont Sheldon, told the Connecticut Law Tribune Thursday that plaintiff counsel “did an exhaustive search of former students and former staff.”
“We learned from many of the students that Mr. Martinez was overtly touchy with students on both the bus line and in gym class,” Robinson said. ”He was touching them inappropriately in front of other students.”
The lawsuits alleged the abuse occurred on multiple occasions, and the boys were typically between the fourth and sixth grades.
Mahoney said the parties settled June 25 and his clients received the checks Tuesday. An arbitrator divided the money among the plaintiffs.
Mahoney’s firm has been representing victims of sexual assault for more than 25 years. He said it’s not unusual for victims to wait years or even decades before telling their stories.
“It takes people a long time to have the courage to come forward,” he said. “Connecticut recognized that, thus they give people until they turn 48 years old.”
The Stamford Board of Education was represented by Dana Lee, assistant corporation counsel for Stamford. Lee did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.