By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is expected to decide if a woman’s sex abuse lawsuit against Bishop Guertin High School can go forward after it was dismissed because it fell outside of New Hampshire’s statute of limitations, even though those limits no longer exist.
Larissa Troy brought the lawsuit against the private Catholic high school and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Roman Catholic order that owns and operates the school in 2018, two years before the statute of limitations would be eliminated.
This year, Hillsborough Superior Court Judge Charles Temple dismissed the case because when it was filed, the lawsuit fell outside New Hampshire’s statutes of limitations law. Under the law as it stood in 2018, Troy had 12 years to bring the lawsuit from the time she was assaulted in 1995, or until 2007. However, in 2020, the New Hampshire legislature amended the laws concerning sex abuse lawsuits and removed any time limit.
Paul Mones, Troy’s attorney who is based in California, declined to comment on the appeal. David Pinsonneault, the school’s attorney as well as the attorney for the Brothers of the Sacred Heart Order which owns and operates the school, also did not want to speak about the case when contacted.
According to court records, Bishop Guertin hired Brother Shawn McEnany in the 1990s knowing that he was a convicted sex offender at the time of the hire. No one in school leadership disclosed McEnany’s record to any of the parents.
According to the lawsuit, McEnany was convicted in 1988 of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl when he was a teacher at the St. Dominic Regional High School in Lewiston, Maine. St. Dominic was also owned and operated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. As a result of that conviction, McEnany was required to register as a sexual offender, and he was barred from teaching in that state.
In 1990, Bishop Guertin hired McEnany to be a teacher in Nashua, a fact not in dispute in the legal filings.
A former administrator at Bishop Guertin said the school knew about McEnany’s record when it asked him to teach at the school in 1990 but did not think he would pose a threat because Guertin was an all-boys school at the time, according to an Associated Press report. The school began admitting girls in 1992.
Troy started attending Bishop Guertin in 1992. In November of 1995, when she was a senior, McEnany allegedly forced himself on her in a classroom, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges at least one other incident of sexual assault.
After she was assaulted, Troy went to the school’s Dean of Students Susan Mansor, according to court records. Mansor accused Troy of making up the abuse, according to the lawsuit.
“Ms. Mansor warned the plaintiff that she ‘would be in a lot of trouble at home and at school’ if she continued to repeat the ‘story,’” Temple’s ruling states.
McEnany would end up getting arrested in 1997 for failing to register as a sex offender and being a teacher despite being a sex offender, which is illegal in New Hampshire.
Those charges were later dropped. McEnany went on to become a social worker in Rhode Island. He died in 2017.
Troy claims in court records she never knew about McEnany’s prior conviction, and only learned about it in 2017. She states in court records that she has suffered psychological problems since her abuse as a Bishop Guertin student.
Both sides entered settlement negotiations last year, according to court records, but this failed to resolve the lawsuit. After the settlement talks broke down, the school moved for a summary judgment to have the case dismissed based on the statute of limitations.
Several brothers with Sacred Heart involved with Bishop Guertin were accused of abuse in the early 2000s, including former headmaster Leo Labbe who reportedly hired McEnany. A class action lawsuit resulted in numerous settlements with purported victims. Sacred Heart settled child sexual abuse claims in June 2004 concerning accusations against brothers Guy Beaulieu, Roger Argencourt, Leon Cyr, Alfred Laflamme, and Leo Labbe.
Bishop Guertin is considered a private, and not a part of the New Hampshire Catholic Diocese.