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October 9, 2005

Nun abuse lawsuit tossed

From:, MA - Oct 9, 2005


BOSTON -- A judge dismissed the first of 18 lawsuits filed by former students of the now-defunct Boston School for the Deaf who allege they were sexually and physically abused by nuns decades ago.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford on Friday dismissed Michael Ross' complaint four days before the case was to go to trial. Botsford's move came two days after she ruled that the Taunton man's lawyer could not present evidence of an "air of lawlessness" condoned by the school principal at the time of the alleged abuse in the 1950s.

Ross's lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who also represents the 17 other former students of the school, said he intends to continue with their individual lawsuits alleging abuse from the 1940s through the 1970s.

But Garabedian said Botsford's evidentiary ruling Wednesday "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. The other suits are likely to suffer a similar fate, he said.

Ross, who has been deaf from birth, alleged that in 1951, when he was about 9 years old, a nun 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.

Ross also alleged that another nun had sex with him and repeatedly engaged in "lewd and lascivious behavior" with him when he was about 16 years old.

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.

Boland should have known about the potential for sexual abuse, Garabedian said.

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.

She also ruled that the statute of limitations for filing a physical abuse claim had expired.

The Boston School for the Deaf was operated by an independent, nonprofit corporation. The school, in Randolph, closed a decade ago.

This story appeared on Page B4 of The Standard-Times on October 9, 2005.