$38M Verdict Against New Hampshire in Youth Center Abuse Case: Legal and Insurance Repercussions


Key Takeaways

  • The $38 million verdict highlights the significant financial implications of state liability in abuse cases.
  • Judge Schulman’s decision underscores the state’s breach of duty and the need for systemic reform.
  • The case reveals the complexities of state liability coverage and the financial strategies required to address large judgments.

By Samuel Lopez, USA Herald Legal Analyst

New Hampshire – A jury in the Rockingham County Superior Court has delivered a landmark $38 million verdict in the case of Meehan v. State of New Hampshire (Docket No. 218-2020-CV-00123). This case has brought to light the harrowing abuse suffered by David Meehan at the New Hampshire Youth Development Center during the 1990s.

David Meehan’s lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire revealed disturbing details of physical and sexual abuse, as well as prolonged solitary confinement, at the Youth Development Center. The jury awarded Meehan $18 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in enhanced damages, marking one of the largest abuse-related verdicts in the state’s history.

Judge Andrew Schulman, who oversaw the trial, refused to discard the verdict despite the state’s request. He highlighted that the facility’s leadership either knowingly ignored or failed to address the endemic abuse. Schulman stated that Meehan had proven “beyond doubt” that the state breached its duty of care regarding staff training, supervision, and discipline.

The $38 million verdict raises critical questions about how the state will manage this substantial financial liability. States generally do not carry traditional liability insurance. Instead, they often rely on self-insurance mechanisms or their general funds to cover such large payouts.

This verdict may necessitate budget reallocations, potentially affecting other state-funded programs and services. It underscores the urgent need to audit the state to identify and remove bad actors, including state executives and employees who may have contributed to the systemic abuse that Mr. Meehan and others have endured due to the state’s negligence.

Understanding State Liability and Insurance

Unlike private entities, states enjoy certain protections under sovereign immunity, which limits their liability in many cases. However, exceptions to this immunity, as seen in Meehan’s case, can result in significant financial judgments. The high cost of comprehensive liability insurance for states, coupled with their ability to self-insure through large budgets and tax revenues, often makes traditional insurance impractical.

As a legal analyst with over 20 years of experience in the legal industry, I have covered numerous abuse cases, but the Meehan case stands out as a stark reminder of the systemic failures that enable such abuse. This case underscores the urgent need for rigorous oversight and accountability in state-run facilities.

There’s a chance the verdict could be appealed, a process that could take months or even years. To stay informed, you can search for updates on the New Hampshire Courts website at https://www.courts.nh.gov/

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