Dartmouth, plaintiffs enter mediation in PBS lawsuit

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 5/27/19 12:19pm


Moore Hall houses the psychological and brain sciences department.

by Peter Charalambous / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Updated: May 29, 2019 at 5:07 p.m.

Dartmouth and nine women who are suing the College in federal court for failing to act on allegations of sexual misconduct against three former professors in the psychological and brain sciences department have secured a delay in the litigation to pursue mediation.

In a motion filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court of New Hampshire, the two parties in the $70-million class action lawsuit, Rapuano et. al. v. Trustees of Dartmouth College, requested that all further litigation be delayed until either July 31 or three days after the mediation agreed upon by the parties, whichever comes sooner, so that the parties can enter talks to “resolve this matter without further litigation.” On Tuesday, Judge Landya McCafferty issued an order granting a stay in the litigation. 

To conduct the mediation, the parties have selected retired judge Robert Morrill, a 21-year veteran of the New Hampshire Superior Court and now a professional mediator based in Portsmouth, NH. Mediation is an out-of-court attempt to settle a legal dispute using an agreed upon third-party mediator, who attempts to find common ground between the parties. Parties entering into mediation are not bound to agree to a decision. 

The motion calling for the delay in litigation comes weeks after two additional former students joined on as anonymous plaintiffs to the lawsuit. These women, using the pseudonyms “Jane Doe 2” and “Jane Doe 3,” added more allegations of sexual misconduct against the former professors, with one claiming that a former PBS department chair was made aware of allegations as early as 2004. 

In response, the College filed a motion in opposition to granting the new plaintiffs anonymity in the case, arguing that having three of nine plaintiffs using pseudonyms would “prejudice” its ability to defend itself in the case, increase the burden of litigation and create challenges for both parties in assessing whether to admit the anonymous individuals as class representatives. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote to The Dartmouth at the time that the College was “exploring mediation.”

In the case, first brought in November 2018, the plaintiffs, all former Dartmouth students, allege that the three former professors turned the PBS department into a “21st century Animal House.” The professors, Todd Heatherton, William Kelley and Paul Whalen, all left the College last summer after a internal College review led to recommendations of their terminations. 

Lawrence and attorneys for the plaintiffs and the College did not respond to requests for comment.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.