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Judge Dismisses Sexual Abuse Case: Statute of Limitations Bars Claims

After months of deliberation, Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl ruled that the 34 former Yeshiva University High School students alleging decades of sexual abuse at their alma mater did not have a case against the university. The judge ruled that the students had not come forward early enough. In New York, victims of sexual abuse have until their twenty-third birthday to seek legal action.

“Statutes of limitations strike a balance between providing a reasonable time for victims to bring their claims while assuring that defendants have a fair opportunity to defend themselves before evidence is lost or memories fade,” Judge Koeltl wrote in a 52-page opinion explaining his ruling. “In this case, the statutes of limitations have expired decades ago, and no exceptions apply.”

The high-profile suit, filed in July, accused Yeshiva University of willfully ignoring and covering up the actions of three rabbis who sexually assaulted teenagers at YU’s high school for boys from the 1970s through 1989. An independent investigation conducted by the university last year acknowledged and expanded the scope of abuse, noting that crimes had occurred through 2001 and in schools beyond just the high school. The report offered no further details about where or when abuse occurred.

“We are gratified that the federal court recognized the validity of our arguments in dismissing the case against Yeshiva University, which has been an incredibly trying process for all involved,” the university said in a statement.

Kevin Mulhearn, the plaintiff’s litigator, said that his clients “have been suffering for years” and that “they deserve justice, not this perversion of justice.” Mulhearn argued that the former students suffered in silence until a December 2012 story published by The Forward revealed widespread abuse.

Mulhearn attempted to circumvent the statute of limitations by arguing that school administrators covered up abuse and threatened students who attempted to bring the abuse to light.

“The plaintiffs were aware of their abuse at the time it occurred, and of the identity of their abusers and those who employed them,” Judge Koeltl wrote in a public statement. “Had the plaintiffs approached an attorney prior to their turning 21, they could have brought their claims.”

The YU statement noted, “Our thoughts and remorse remain with those affected and harmed, and the confidential counseling services of Yeshiva University remain available to them.”

Mulhearn and the 34 students will appeal the decision.