Jury Awards $38M to First YDC Victim, Largest in State History

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Courtesy photo

David Meehan is pictured when he was a teenager at YDC in Manchester. Meehan is now 42.

David Meehan, 42, is pictured in Rockingham Superior Court in Brentwood during his civil trial against the NH Department of Health and Human Services for his treatment while incarcerated as a teenager in the Youth Development Center (YDC) in Manchester.


BRENTWOOD – The jury in Rockingham Superior Court is holding the state of New Hampshire to account for the rapes, beatings, and brutality suffered by David Meehan as a child, awarding him $38 million in damages which represents the largest amount awarded in a contested civil liability trial in state history.

The state Attorney General’s Office immediately issued a news outlet saying it will only pay $475,000.

The jury deliberated most of Friday morning before reaching its verdict in the early afternoon finding the state liable for the culture of abuse, corruption, and coverup at the Sununu Youth Services Center, then called YDC in Manchester

Meehan was awarded $18 million in compensatory damages for his pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment in life. He’s also awarded $20 million in enhanced damages as the jury found the state engaged in “wanton, malicious, and oppressive conduct” by abusing its power in permitting the sexual assaults, excessive solitary confinement, and physical abuse.

“David Meehan is a hero in New Hampshire history for having the courage to tell the truth about the State’s grotesque abuse of him as a child. He spoke truth to power, and the jury sent a powerful message validating his harm and condemning the State’s wanton, malicious, and oppressive conduct,” his attorneys Rus Rilee and David Vicinanzo, former First Assistant US Attorney, said in a statement released shortly after the verdict was announced.

But the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office claimed Friday the state won’t pay up. According to a statement, state law caps awards to $475,000.

“The New Hampshire Department of Justice respects the jury’s decision. The jury awarded $38 million in damages but found that Mr. Meehan had proven that only one incident had occurred. State law, RSA 541-B:14, I, provides that any claimant who brings a lawsuit against the State may only recover up to $475,000 per incident. Therefore, today’s jury verdict will result in an award of $475,000 for Mr. Meehan,” the New Hampshire Department of Justice statement reads.

But Vicinanzo said the state’s position is false, and the DOJ is simply trying to set up an appeal to escape responsibility.

“The state is trying to craft a technical loophole for appeal but it will fail, just like all their other excuses for allowing the beatings and rapes of David Meehan. The State’s behavior in this child abuse case was a crime when it happened and continues to be shameful, an embarrassment to the people of New Hampshire who expect better of our government officials,” Vicinanzo said.

The jury heard weeks of testimony about Meehan’s horrific time in YDC in the 1990s. He was raped at least 200 times, beaten nearly as often as he was raped, and subjected to weeks of solitary confinement that effectively served as another form of torture. Then a significant number of staff and administration at YDC either looked the other way, or helped cover up the abuse, according to the testimony.

With Meehan’s win, the state is now looking at a potentially ruinous 1,000 more civil lawsuits brought by other men and women who claim they were physically and sexually abused while in state custody as children.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence applauded the jury’ decision.

“May this 38-million-dollar verdict send a message to every child predator and every institution that has enabled them. This verdict is a bold and emphatic statement that children deserve to be heard and believed. We commend David Meehan for speaking the truth, and we are grateful to him and all of the victims that have come forward to demand justice and systemic change,” said Director of Public Affairs Amanda Grady Sexton.


From the jury form provided by the court in the lawsuit David Meehan v. NH Department of Health and Human Services

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