This month, Governor Sununu signed a law creating a $100 million dollar relief fund to compensate hundreds of victims who suffered horrific sexual and physical abuse as children detained at the Youth Development Center (YDC), Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC), State Industrial School, Philbrook School, and Tobey Special Education School.
Why a Fund?
The YDC Claims Fund is similar to many mass tort settlement funds, such as the World Trade Center and the Boy Scouts, which were set up to provide a simple and efficient way of resolving legal claims, instead of going through years and years of court proceedings and appeals.
Do I have to file a claim with the YDC Claims Fund?
Victims of YDC abuse can choose to file a claim with the YDC Claims Fund, or they can choose to file a lawsuit in State Court. This is a personal decision that should be made based on the personal goals of each victim and with the guidance of an experienced attorney.
Although the YDC Claims Fund is not the best option for every victim, it provides advantages that are not available in a traditional lawsuit in court.
While trials in court are generally open to the public, the YDC Claims Fund is not. Instead, it is a private and confidential process. Additionally, a victim has the right to waive this confidentiality if they choose to do so.
The YDC Claims Fund provides victims with a resolution of their case far faster than the New Hampshire court system can. Some may be willing to wait years for the hundreds of trials standing between them and their day in court and thus might not choose the fund process. In June 2021, the judge assigned to the YDC lawsuits said it could take 35 years for all trials to be held. Since that time, however, hundreds of additional lawsuits have been filed, thereby delaying victims’ access to justice even further.
While the amount of compensation that jury might award, if any, is a gamble, the YDC Claims Fund provides more certainty. Victims who experienced physical abuse are eligible for compensation up to $150,000. Victims who experienced sexual abuse are eligible for compensation up to $1,500,000. Additionally, the precise amount of compensation that a victim is entitled to through the YDC Claims Fund can be calculated, before ever filing a claim, by carefully analyzing the facts giving rise to the claim.
When Can Claims Be Filed?
Any former resident of the YDC who experienced sexual and/or physical abuse may file a claim on or before December 31, 2024.
What is happening with the YDC Claims Fund right now?
Former Chief Justice John Broderick was chosen by the State Supreme Court to serve as the Administrator of the YDC Claims Fund. Administrator Broderick issued his first quarterly report on April 14, 2023.
He reported a total of 38 claims have been filed, with sexual abuse the subject of 11 claims, physical abuse 5, and 22 involving both. At that time, the total amount sought by the filed claims was $31,869,375.
Some claims have already been approved and settled, including claims for $170,000 and $1.5 million, the latter of which was achieved by our office.
Attorneys who represent claimants will be limited to a one-third (33 and 1/3 %) contingent fee on the amount recovered.
Challenges to Plaintiffs
Several documents must be completed to file a claim with the YDC Claims Fund. The claim documents and associated rules are approximately 85 pages long and contain complex calculations and definitions that determine the amount of compensation a victim is entitled to. With that much paper and complexity, many claimants have turned to us for assistance.
Furthermore, there are millions of pages of State-produced documents to be reviewed before an attorney files a claim for a client, and finding the documents that support an individual victim’s claim and requested compensation is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, the State maintains that plaintiffs’ attorneys must submit these supporting documents with a claim before the State will either settle the claim at all or settle it for the amount of compensation requested.
While the YDC Claims Fund is not a perfect solution, the State owes victims the opportunity to timely and fairly resolve their claims.
We look forward to recoveries from the YDC Claims Fund for our other clients, and we will not apologize for fighting for victims who feel that justice requires closure and compensation now. We believe in giving our clients results, not promises.
Contact our experienced attorneys at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. today!