November 26, 2022

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Fairfield University claims insurance company reneged on abuse settlement payment

BRIDGEPORT — Two years after it agreed to pay a share of $61 million to more than 50 boys sexually abused at a Haitian school it funded, Fairfield University is fighting to get its insurance company to pick up the tab.

“This is a civil action by Fairfield against Chubb for breach of their contractual obligations to defend and indemnify Fairfield against lawsuits alleging liability in connection with sexual misconduct in Haiti by Douglas Perlitz,” states the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

The Chubb Group of New Jersey, the university’s insurer, has filed a motion in court to dismiss the case, contending it has done nothing wrong.


In the meantime, a settlement conference has been scheduled for March 10 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Merriam, according to court records.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on legal matters,” said Chubb Group spokesman Eric Samansky.

“Fairfield University does not comment on ongoing litigation,” said spokeswoman Jennifer L. Anderson.

The university has not said how much of the $61 million settlement it paid.

Douglas Perlitz, a Fairfield University graduate, founded and operated the residential school for boys in Haiti called Project Pierre-Toussaint. Fairfield University raised funds and sent university student volunteers to work at the Haitian school.

Accused of sexually assaulting the Haitian students, in August 2010 Perlitz pleaded guilty to one charge of traveling overseas to engage in sex with a minor. He was sentenced to 19 years and seven months in federal prison.

Two dozen former students sued Fairfield University and other religious groups that helped run the school resulting in a separate $12 million settlement in 2013.

The second lawsuit, referred to as Perlitz II, was later filed against the university and others by more than 50 former students. That lawsuit alleged that Fairfield University was liable for negligent supervision of Perlitz and for breach of a fiduciary duty to the plaintiffs.

“In early 2019, the defendants successfully settled the Perlitz II litigation by asking the District Court to certify a settlement class and approve the proposed settlement as reasonable,” the university’s lawsuit states. “Chubb participated in the settlement discussions and consented to the settlement.”

“A significant proportion of the funds to be used in the University’s contribution to the settlement will come through a University Insurance carrier,” Fairfield University said in a statement following the announcement of the settlement. “The university has been planning for this litigation, and any difference has been allocated for and will not have material impact on the financial integrity of the university or its day-to-day operations in serving our students, faculty and the broader Fairfield Community,” the school said in a prepared statement at the time. “We will continue to make investments to enhance our facilities and our faculty to ensure that we provide a world-class education to our students.”

However, the lawsuit continues, “while Chubb consented to Fairfield’s settlement share, it only funded a portion at the time of settlement, requiring Fairfield to advance a significant balance of the settlement from its own funds in order to effectuate the settlement and end the litigation.”