Fayette County

Class-action sought in Berry lawsuit after judge dismisses most plaintiffs

Attorneys have asked a federal judge to grant class-action status for alleged victims of abuse involving the founder of a Lexington youth program.

The move comes after a judge dismissed all but four claimants in the lawsuit last week.

Class-action status would help attorneys identify potential additional victims in the lawsuit arising out of the alleged sexual abuse by Ron Berry, who operated the now-defunct Micro-City Government program for disadvantaged youths.

The Urban County Government and former city officials are accused of continuing to fund the Micro-City Government program, even though officials knew that Berry was sexually and physically abusing children in the program.

"It's crucial that we finally determine how many victims there are," said James Morris, who represents four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He is one of the attorneys who filed the motion for class-action status. "If class is granted, we can start discovering how large the class is."

Alleged additional victims of Berry's abuse could be included in the lawsuit if U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman grants class-action status. But claimants would have to file individual lawsuits if Bertelsman does not grant the status.

"Either way, you start to have finality to the river of people coming forward saying, 'This man did this to me, too,'" Morris said.

All except four claimants were dismissed from the lawsuit last week. The judge ruled that except for the four, the claimants didn't bring their claims forward within the statute of limitations for their cases.

"It is important to note that last Friday, the court dismissed the claims of over 150 plaintiffs, leaving only four. Of those four, three have claims against 10 former LFUCG officials," city spokeswoman Susan Straub said.

"The remaining four plaintiffs are asking the court to be representatives of a class of persons who allegedly were molested by Ron Berry and who turned age 18 within one year prior to October 15, 1998.

"Given the dismissal of all but four plaintiffs, the government believes this attempt at class certification will be denied," Straub said.

Berry started Micro-City in 1969 to introduce disadvantaged youths to public service. He was convicted in 2000 of 12 counts of third-degree sodomy of a victim younger than 16. He completed a three-year sentence in 2005.

The city settled two other suits related to the Berry case for a total of $2.85 million. One payout in 2002 was to 17 former plaintiffs for a total of $2.4 million, one of the largest payouts in the city's history.

Other class-action lawsuits followed but were dismissed.