Category Archives: Tort Reform

School Sued After 25 Years of Sex Abuse Accusations

A bit over 25 years ago, children at the elite Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn were allegedly sexually abused by the football coach, Philip Foglietta. Back in August, 10 alumni and 2 summer camp students sued the school. While the group could not file under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, Judge Frederic Block allowed two individuals to move forward with the RICO claim, as they had donated money to the school. 11 of the plaintiffs were also allowed to pursue the case for negligence and Title IX sexual abuse claims.

Though Foglietta died in 1998, the case claims that the abuse lasted over a 20 year period, from 1966 to 1986. While accusations were made, threats were made to conceal, refutations made by the former headmaster William Williams, and none of the accusations before 1991 (the year Foglietta retired) were ever found.

While Poly Prep did ask for dismissal of the case, it continues on past three-year statute of limitations. The school believes that the case “will ultimately be dismissed following a hearing,” but has also pursued settlements with the plaintiffs.

Tort Reform Should Be Reviewed

Under a 1971 government immunity statute, the government’s liability is capped at $150,000 per individual and $600,000 per incident.  However, if I were to crash into my neighbor’s car and accidently kill someone, I would have to pay monetary damages to help my neighbor recoup the loss or would face criminal charges.  However, the government does not fall under the same laws.  For example, the Colorado State Forest Service was blamed for the destruction of 27 structures and three deaths in a recent controlled burn that went awry.  However, its liability is restricted to the above numbers.

This fire stated as a controlled burn on March 22, 2012, but reignited in 80 mph winds on March 26.  Consequently, the fire spread across more than 4,000 acres and caused $11.3 million in property damage.  To further the damage, firefighting efforts were hampered by a series of communication mishaps and a delay in ordering an evacuation.  Many residents in the area did not receive emergency phone calls, including one of the people who died.

The Sheriff department found no criminal violations related to the wildfire.  Homeowners are justifiably furious that the Forest Service chose to set the fire during one of the driest Marches on record.  This fire resulted in 900 homes being evacuated and more than 700 firefighters.  The legislature should raise the liability cap for plaintiffs to be able to recoup.  For example, one of the nine claimants lost 2.5 miles of power distribution lines in the fire and has already spent $700,000 to repair them, even before paying mounting overtime compensation for restoring electric service to customers in the area.

While this law is intended to protect governments from frivolous lawsuits, the law needs to be reviewed and updated to keep pace with inflation.  After all, the state and local governments are collecting more in taxes as individuals earn more and home values increase.  Furthermore, this would ensure that the government is liable and held accountable for its own mistakes.

Florida Gets New Personal Injury Legislation

HB 119 requires that all Florida drivers carry $10,000 in coverage for accident injuries and a lower ceiling of $2,500 in coverage for non-emergency treatment.  This latter portion is to cut down on abuses from the many staged accidents in Florida.  While the bill has yet to reach the Governor’s desk, some are already starting to take action.

The new legislation would give authorities more tools to head off scams.  The original 1972 law makes sure that the driver’s insurance company pays up to $10,000 for medical bills and lost wages, regardless who is at fault.  This bill requires the victim to obtain treatment in 14 days or the limit goes down to $2,500.  The hope is that this will decrease the number of fraudulent claims and lower insurance prices.