Meehan Jurors Shocked at State Cap in YDC Abuse Award

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David Meehan is pictured in Rockingham Superior Court during his civil trial against the state Department of Health and Human Services.


BRENTWOOD – Two of the jurors who awarded David Meehan a record $38 million for the hundreds of rapes and beatings he suffered as a child while in state custody are shocked to learn the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office plans to cap the payout at $475,000.

Now, Meehan’s lawyers want an emergency hearing in Rockingham Superior Court to get clarity on what the state is going to pay for enabling the abuse and then hiding it for decades. That hearing date has yet to be scheduled.

After weeks of grueling testimony, the jury deliberated for a few hours on Friday before finding the state liable for Meehan’s abuse at the hands of former Sununu Youth Services Center staff, then called YDC in Manchester. Meehan was awarded $18 million in compensatory damages for his pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment in life. He was 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.

But within minutes of the verdict being announced, the New Hampshire Department of Justice stated the jury’s verdict legally limits the award to just $475,000. The jury form was marked to indicate the state was liable for one incident that caused Meehan’s years of suffering and mental illness, and the DOJ is claiming that limits the amount of damages under New Hampshire law.

But the jury’s foreman said the jury did not understand the law and did not know that the way they marked the form would limit the award. The foreman emailed Meehan’s lawyers over the weekend to express dismay.

“I’m so sorry. I’m absolutely devastated. We had no idea. Had we known that the settlement amount was to be on a per incident basis, I assure you, our outcome would have reflected it. I pray that Mr. Meehan realizes this and is made as whole as he can possibly be within a proper amount of time,” the foreman wrote to Rus Rilee.

A representative for the New Hampshire Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

Meehan’s lawyers write in a motion seeking an emergency hearing that they have not responded to the jurors and have had no contact with them. The jurors used the email addresses for the lawyers that are available to the public. The foreman also reached out to attorney David Vicinanzo reiterating they had no idea about the cap law, and they would have filled in the form differently had they known. The foreman described they felt “duped” by the state.

“I was literally sickened and brought to tears in fear of the mistake we made. I still am.

“Please know, and PLEASE let Mr. Meehan know that, had we had knowledge that that was the way it was going to work, we would NOT have written it that way. As, I’m sure, as in all juries, we were initially ‘all over the map’ and fairly argumentative as far as a ‘number’ was concerned, however we all 100% agreed that ultimately the state was responsible. Job well done sirs,” the foreman wrote.

A second juror also contacted Rilee to say the state is twisting the intent of the verdict. The jurors agreed there were hundreds of incidents of abuse against Meehan, but one main injury from that abuse, his severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“We wrote on our verdict form that there was 1 incident/injury, being complex PTSD, from the result of upwards of 100+ injuries (Sexual, Physical, emotional abuse). We were never informed of a cap being placed per incident of abuse and that is wrong how the question was worded to us. The State is making their own interpretation of the ruling that we made, and that is not right for them to assume our position. We have not been given the opportunity to explain our position on the verdict. David should be entitled to what we awarded him, which was $38 million dollars,” the second juror wrote.

Retired state Supreme Court Justice Gary Hicks has signed on to represent Meehan as the case is likely heading for an appeal of the $38 million verdict. Hicks did not respond to a request for comment.

Meehan’s lawsuit is the first of at least 1,000 more brought by adult survivors who say they were raped and abused as children in state custody. It’s anticipated trying all of the lawsuits will tie up the courts for at least a decade.

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