Man's Abuse Case against Nun Dismissed
17 Other Lawsuits over School Remain
By Jonathan Saltzman
Boston Globe [Boston MA]
October 8, 2005
Only four days before it was set to go to trial, a state judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Taunton man who alleged that he was sexually and physically abused by nuns when he was a student at the now-defunct Boston School for the Deaf in the 1950s.
The suit by William Ross was the first of 18 brought by former students against officials at the school that are nearing trial in Suffolk Superior Court. But Judge Margot Botsford dismissed the complaint after issuing a ruling Wednesday that barred Ross's lawyer from presenting evidence of an "air of lawlessness" condoned by the school principal.
Ross's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who also represents the 17 other former students of the school, said he intends to press on with their individual suits. But he said Botsford's ruling Wednesday quashing evidence "certainly doesn't help" if he tries to make a similar argument in the other complaints.
Joseph L. Doherty Jr., who was representing the retired 93-year-old principal in Ross's suit and is involved in the 17 remaining claims, said that the dismissal was a "tremendous victory" for the nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph and that the other suits are likely to suffer a similar fate.
"Mr. Garabedian himself chose this to be the primary case to put forward to trial," he said. "We don't see that there's any true factual evidence to support any of the claims."
Ross, who has been deaf from birth, alleged that in 1951, when he was about 9 years old, a nun, Sister Teresita Corliss, force-fed him soup in the cafeteria, causing him to vomit, and slapped him in the face. Three years later, he said, she confined him to a dark room for an extended period.
Ross also alleged that another nun, Sister Mary Mark, had sex with him and repeatedly engaged in "lewd and lascivious behavior" with him when he was about 16 years old. The sexual and physical abuse, he alleged, caused him to suffer emotional problems and to abuse alcohol.
But because both nuns are deceased, Ross sued Sister Mary Carl Boland, who served as principal of the school from 1954 to 1966, Garabedian said. Boland lives in a Framingham nursing home for elderly nuns.
Had the case gone to trial, Garabedian said, he would have called 13 former students to testify that the school administration failed to supervise nuns. Given the atmosphere, he said, Boland should have known about the potential for sexual abuse.
But Botsford disagreed, Garabedian said, saying the principal could not have foreseen such abuse, if it occurred. She refused to let the 13 witnesses testify. Three of the 13 are plaintiffs, he said.
She also ruled that the statute of limitations for filing a physical abuse claim had expired.
Garabedian said Ross, now in his early 60s, is "extremely disappointed, because he feels as though he should have had his day in court." Garabedian's clients, some as young as 5 at the time of the alleged abuse, said they were abused between 1944 and 1977.
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