March 28, 2012 5:32 PM

Pillsbury Joins Poly Prep Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

UPDATE: 3/28/12, 6:00 p.m., EDT, The fourth paragraph has been updated to reflect the fact that a Pillsbury spokesman has confirmed that the firm is taking the case on a pro bono basis.

Nine men who claim they were sexually abused by the former football coach at Brooklyn’s prestigious Poly Prep Country Day School have added some heft to their legal team.

The New York Daily News reports that lawyers from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman are now representing the nine former Poly Prep students who claim they were molested by longtime coach Phil Foglietta, who died in 1998, and that school officials engaged in a decades-long coverup of Foglietta’s allegedly improper acts.

A review of documents filed in Brooklyn federal district court Monday show that Pillsbury litigation partners Edward Flanders and Kimberly Buffington are working on the suit in conjunction with Kevin Mulhearn, a New York attorney and Poly Prep alum already representing the plaintiffs in connection with their 2009 suit against the school.

Mulhearn told the Daily News that he is “thrilled” to be working with Pillsbury. The firm has taken the case on a pro bono basis, according to a Pillsbury spokesman. Mulhearn and Flanders did not immediately respond to The Am Law Daily’s requests for comment on the case.

One of the plaintiffs, Philip Culhane, is a Hong Kong–based corporate partner at Simpson Thacher Bartlett. In 2010, Culhane spoke at length with The Am Law Daily about his decision to join the suit as a plaintiff.

While a previous suit filed against the school by Poly Prep alumni in New York state court in 2005 was dismissed under the state’s statute of limitations, the current suit—filed under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—accuses the school of failing to probe abuse claims against Foglietta even though officials told parents and students that they were investigating the allegations, according to our prior reporting.

Poly Prep, which is represented by a team from O’Melveny Myers, originally moved to have the federal case dismissed based on New York’s statute of limitations for sex abuse cases as well. But a federal district court judge ruled in 2010 that the claim that the school had engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to cover up the allegations was enough to grant the plaintiffs’ discovery request, as The Am Law Daily has previously reported. Poly Prep was also sanctioned last year for destroying evidence in the case.

A decision on Poly Prep’s most recent motion to dismiss was postponed last month, and the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the suit on Monday, according to court filings. A settlement conference in the suit was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

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