Lawsuit filed by Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel asserts that The Hotchkiss School fostered an environment rife with sexual abuse for decades; if successful, future survivors would have quicker pathway to justice and not need to again prove school is liable for negligence, breached its duty, and created unreasonable risk
Lakeville, Connecticut – A class-action lawsuit was filed today against The Hotchkiss School, a private boarding and day school located in Lakeville, Connecticut, alleging a deeply troubling history of gross negligence in child protection and a culture that allowed sexual abuse to thrive on its campus.
The complaint, filed by Plaintiff Mark Moe and on behalf of other male Hotchkiss students who were exposed to the increased risk of sexual violence posed by Roy G. Smith, Jr., a former teacher and athletic trainer at the school, reveals a shocking and distressing pattern of abuse that spans three decades. The lawsuit asserts that Hotchkiss not only failed to protect its students from these abuses but also actively protected and enabled the abuser.
The case asks the Court to certify a class of all male Hotchkiss students who were student-athletes on a Hotchkiss sports team for which Roy Smith served as an athletic trainer, and/or who visited Roy Smith’s on-campus apartment for “tutoring.” If successful, other Smith survivors could come forward to seek damages against Hotchkiss and rely on the Court’s determination that Hotchkiss is liable for their injuries.
The allegations against Hotchkiss include rampant sexual abuse of students by faculty members, Hotchkiss’s knowledge of Smith’s clear and consistent patterns of abusive behavior, Smith’s inappropriate touching of students’ genitals and sexual abuse under the guise of tutoring, Hotchkiss’s failure to intervene for 30 years while providing Smith with access to thousands of students, the expulsion of a student who reported Smith’s abuse instead of disciplining Smith, and a lack of policies and procedures for the prevention of and response to sexual abuse.
In 2018, Hotchkiss commissioned a report that revealed a shocking amount of serial sexual abuse by faculty against students. The Locke Lord Report, as it is known, detailed abuse by many faculty members during the same decades in which Roy Smith was abusing children at Hotchkiss. It revealed a culture where predatory teachers were accepted and protected, while student reports were suppressed.
“Instead of ensuring a safe and secure community, Hotchkiss betrayed the trust of its students and exposed them to a dangerous environment for young people. Students should have been able to focus on their education without fear of sexual abuse from their teachers,” said Lieff Cabraser partner Annika K. Martin, who is head of the firm’s Survivor Advocacy Practice Group and who represents the survivors. “This lawsuit will open the door for other Smith survivors to more easily come forward and hold the school accountable for knowingly putting them in harm’s way.” Martin has successfully represented other survivors who have brought individual claims against The Hotchkiss School.
“This complaint goes beyond my individual experience. It sheds light on a systemic issue at Hotchkiss and decades of abuse hidden by the school,” said Plaintiff Mark Moe, which is a pseudonym. “By filing this case, I aim to bring justice to survivors of abuse at Hotchkiss pave the way for others to come forward and more easily hold the school accountable for the abuse it allowed to happen to them.”
“Survivors deserve to have their voices heard and for the school to admit they failed their students for decades,” said Hugh Cuthbertson and Glenn Duhl at Zangari Cohn Cuthbertson Duhl & Grello in New Haven. “This case is an important step to achieve this outcome that these students so greatly deserve.”