NH expands eligible abuse for youth detention center payment, ups settlement caps

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 06-18-2024 6:05 PM

The state has broadened who can seek payment for abuse while at the former Youth Development Center. 

Gov. Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 591 Friday, which immediately expands the type of abuse eligible for payment but also increases settlement payment caps and gives individuals six more months to submit claims.

Under the new law, lawmakers added $60 million to the original $100 million Youth Development Center settlement fund to expand and increase compensation to victims. 

Until Friday, the state considered claims for only sexual and physical assault, and it capped awards at $1.5 million for sexual assault or a combination of sexual and physical assault and at $150,000 for physical abuse alone.

Now, there is an additional cateogry for “egregious” sexual abuse, defined as “wanton or cruel” abuse, that goes beyond what most victims experience. Those claims would be capped at $2.5 million.

Also new is a category for “other” abuse, which could include unlawful restraint, confinement, strip searches, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

The two attorneys who represent nearly 1,000 former YDC residents have encouraged them to sue the state rather than settle because of limits on payments and eligible abuse. The attorneys told lawmakers they’d encourage their clients to settle instead under the bill.

In a statement Friday, Attorney General John Formella, whose office oversees the settlement process, thanked lawmakers, the governor, and the two attorneys who represent nearly 1,000 former YDC residents for supporting the legislation signed into law Friday.

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“As we move forward, we are committed to working closely with (the fund’s administrator), plaintiffs’ counsel, and, most importantly, the victims themselves, to ensure that the implementation of these changes is conducted with fairness, respect, and efficiency,” Formella said. “Together, we are dedicated to providing victims with the justice and closure they deserve.”

Claims, which will now be accepted until May, can be filed via the Attorney General’s website, ydcclaims.nh.gov.