Lawyers for youth center victims oppose settlement process | West
CONCORD, NH (AP) — New Hampshire’s proposed process to settle decades of sexual and physical abuse allegations at its youth detention center is tantamount to “setting a trap” for hundreds of victims at risk. financial insecurity, according to their lawyers.
Lawmakers approved a $100 million settlement fund for men and women who were abused as children at the Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly known as the Youth Development Center. The attorney general’s office released draft documents last week on how it would calculate individual payments and plans to update them based on feedback from victims’ lawyers before submitting them to lawmakers for approval.
According to the draft documents, victims of sexual assault would be eligible for basic compensation ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 that would be increased based on the frequency of abuse closer to a dozen aggravating factors, including abuse resulting in pregnancy, perpetration by more than one person, or continued abuse for more than two years.
Victims would have two years to file claims from January 1. Individual sexual abuse payments will be capped at $1.5 million, while physical abuse payments will be capped at $150,000.
The numbers are based on nationwide searches of similar settlements reached with nearly 5,000 claimants nationwide, officials said. But attorneys for the potential New Hampshire plaintiffs called them “ridiculously low.”
In a letter to Attorney General John Formella, attorneys Rus Rilee and David Vicinanzo said Thursday the base amounts appear driven by a desire to resolve as many claims as possible within limits, “not out of a sense of fairness or of decency”.
The attorneys also argued that in researching other settlements elsewhere, the state included cases that are not similar to the New Hampshire abuses and omitted comparable cases. And they repeated their criticism that victims should not be forced to give up their right to sue without any guarantee that they will get money.
“No rational victim would do this, especially victims who already distrust the state that has systematically abused them for decades,” they wrote. “By creating this cruel condition, the state reveals to its victims and the public that it remains on the defensive, without remorse.”
The Manchester facility, named after former Governor John H. Sununu, has been under an extensive criminal investigation since 2019. Ten of its former employees and an 11th who worked at a Concord detention center were arrested last year, and nearly 450 former residents have sued the state based on allegations involving more than 150 staff members from 1963 to 2018.
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