Judge Rejects Bishop Guertin Abuse Suit

Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA)
September 3, 2003

NASHUA [AP] A judge has struck down a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against Bishop Guertin High School and the religious order that owns it by four men who claim they were sexually abused while they were students.

The ruling by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge William Groff means each of the men will have to sue the Catholic high school and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart separately, according to their lawyer, Peter Hutchins.

"The order and the high school are pleased with the court's decision and we will continue to press forward treating these cases as individual claims," said their lawyer, Matthew Cairns. "We're pleased with the outcome."

Hutchins sued in February on behalf of three clients and any other people who claim they were sexually abused by members of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. A fourth plaintiff was added to the suit later.

The suit claims the school and the order had a "lax and tolerant attitude" about teachers accused of molesting minors. Hutchins said he believed there could be dozens of other students who were sexually abused by brothers at the school who have yet to come forward.

"My hope ultimately was that working within the concept of a class-action would engender the type of cooperation that lends to a settlement and avoids a trial," Hutchins said. "I don't mind trying the cases, but litigating and trying every case is not the way to go. It's damaging to the victims, it damages the school and the brothers."

Hutchins said the Diocese of Manchester used the avenue of a class-action lawsuit to settle claims against it. He thought it made sense to do the same here.

In court filings, the school and the order have sought to have other cases thrown out of court. In interviews, lawyers have said the school and the order have no legal or moral obligation to the former students at the school who claim they were sexually abused.

The three men who originally brought the lawsuit claim they were sexually abused by Brother Guy Beaulieu, a former teacher at the school. A fourth plaintiff, claimed he was sexually abused by Leon Cyr, a former history teacher at the school.

Beaulieu has admitted to sexually abusing as many as 18 students at the school between 1971 and 1988, according to court records. Also named as defendants in the suit were Beaulieu, Leo Labbe, Roland Dupuis and Roger Argencourt. Argencourt died last year.

Last week, the order settled with two other Hutchins clients, who claimed they were abused while they were boys attending Camp Fatima in Gilmanton.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.