Consolidated youth center abuse lawsuits move forward

Jul 10, 2022, 10:28 PM | Updated: Jul 11, 2022, 10:34 am

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge has consolidated hundreds of lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse at New Hampshire’s youth detention center, more than two years after the first case was filed.

David Meehan sued the state, the youth center, agencies that oversee it and multiple former employees in January 2020, alleging that he endured near-daily rapes and beatings at the Youth Development Center in Manchester in the 1990s. At the time, he was one of about three dozen men and women who had come forward, but since then, about 450 have filed lawsuits alleging abuse by 150 staffers over six decades.

The civil litigation has largely been on hold since 11 former youth workers were arrested last year, but a judge last week kicked it into high gear with an order setting out the consolidation process.

While consolidation brings the “the risk of cookie cutter dispositions,” proceeding with individual cases would present a “backbreaking clerical burden” for the court, said Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman. The state is expected to produce more than 3 million pages of documents in the initial discovery phase. Discovery likely will take several months, and groups of cases will be combined for joint trials, lawyers said.

Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents all but a handful of the plaintiffs, on Friday filed a “master complaint” covering the allegations and legal claims that are common to his clients. He said he expects to file individual complaints for about 700 clients in the next 30 days.

“We are excited that we are now moving into the discovery phase of these lawsuits, so we can begin to take depositions and release documents to the public to shine a light on decades of systemic governmental child abuse, with the hope of preventing these atrocities from ever happening to another child in the custody of the state,” he said Monday.

The master complaint describes the history of the facility from 1850s onward, portraying it as a place where “violence, abuse and neglect simmered just beneath the surface,” while those in power “consistently turned their backs on the children.”

It alleges that multiple employees not only failed to take action to stop abuse but actively concealed it.

“More than that, State Defendants, including agents and employees in supervisory positions, tolerated or ignored a general culture of violence, abuse, boundary crossing, and disrespect and antipathy toward the children in their custody, creating fertile ground for reasonably foreseeable individual acts of abuse to proliferate, persist, and be left unaddressed, thereby creating a cycle that perpetuated abuse,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, each plaintiff suffered at least one form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, was subject to neglect or excessive restraint or was deprived of an education. Examples of physical abuse include being pushed down stairs or slammed into walls; emotional abuse included forcing children to consume urine or garbage and encouraging a suicidal youth to “go for it.”

In hopes of avoiding lengthy litigation, the Legislature has created a $100 million fund for physical and sexual abuse victims. Victims will have two years to file claims, starting Jan. 1. Individual payments for sexual abuse will be limited to $1.5 million, while payments for physical abuse will be limited to $150,000.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

12 hours ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

2 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

2 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

3 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

3 days ago

Image: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, speaks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zele...

Associated Press

Ukraine uses US weapons to strike inside Russia, a Western official tells AP

Ukraine has used U.S weapons to strike inside Russia in recent days, according to a Western official familiar with the matter told the AP.

9 days ago

Consolidated youth center abuse lawsuits move forward