Bishop Guertin settles abuse case

NASHUA – A former Bishop Guertin High School student who claimed he was sexually abused by Brother Roger Argencourt while attending the school in the 1970s has settled a lawsuit against the school.

The settlement is the first out of 10 cases filed against the school and the religious order that runs it by former students who say they were sexually abused by members of the order of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, said Peter Hutchins, the Manchester lawyer who is representing the former students.

All 10 cases allege sexual abuse by five former brothers at the school including Argencourt, who died in September 2002.

Two of the cases allege misconduct against Argencourt, but Hutchins declined to name the client who settled Wednesday at the request of his client, but said the abuse occurred in the 1970s.

“It was one of the first cases we brought to litigation,” he said.

Hutchins also declined to reveal the settlement amount, stating privacy concerns for his client.Hutchins, who said he has settled 93 cases against the Diocese of Manchester involving sexual abuse allegations against members of that organization, said the settlement amount was in the upper range of the $10,000 to $500,000 that has already been won in each of those cases.

“It was a significant settlement because the abuse was very severe,” Hutchins said.

The settlement was reached Wednesday afternoon by phone following negotiations that began with a Nov. 7 mediation session, Hutchins said.

That session was continued to Nov. 11 and later continued through phone negotiations, Hutchins said.

“It was in essence a matter of getting to a final settlement amount that we were able to agree to today,” said Peter Hutchins.

Hutchins said his client was “relieved that it was over.”

He said the year-and-a-half process has been a form of revictimization for his client, who has had to relieve the experience through depositions and other procedures throughout the litigation process.

Settling the suit was a welcome option for both parties, he said.

“Faced with the prospect of going to a trial I think it’s hard for the victim and for the school, too,” Hutchins said.

Along with the nine remaining cases filed against the school, Hutchins said he has five other clients who are planning to file similar suits against the school.

“It’s significant that we were able to settle the first Bishop Guertin case. It’s my hope that by settling this first one it will allow us to have constructive discussions to resolve the remaining cases,” Hutchins said.

Nashua lawyer Dave Pinsonneault, who represents the school, said both parties were satisfied with the settlement and that negotiations continue with the remaining cases.

“These are difficult, serious cases that we continue to discuss,” Pinsonneault said.

“We are pleased that this one is resolved and we are continuing to discuss the rest of them.”