Judge Won’t Recall Jury on $38M YDC Abuse Award, But More Legal Action Likely

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WMUR Screenshots

Defense attorney Martha Gaythwaite, representing the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at left. David Vicinanzo, representing David Meehan is pictured at right with Judge Andrew Schulman in the background as both sides made their final arguments May 2.

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

BRENTWOOD- Judge Andrew Schulman ruled Wednesday it is not appropriate to recall the jury that awarded David Meehan $38 million for the abuse he suffered while incarcerated as a teen at YDC only to find the state says it will only pay $475,000, the cap under state law.

Meehan’s attorneys asked Schulman for an emergency hearing to recall and poll the jury in Rockingham Superior Court after receiving four emails from jurors. They were upset that Meehan wouldn’t get the full amount because of how they filled out the juror form stating there was only one incident of abuse when they meant that it was one injury, PTSD.

“The jury could have been asked to clarify its verdict before it was discharged-but no request was made (or more accurately, the opportunity to make such a request was waived). The jury might have been asked to clarify its verdict shortly thereafter before the jurors were exposed to others. But no request was made. Within 24 hours of the verdict the jurors were exposed to intense publicity and criticism of their verdict,” Schulman wrote, promising a more detailed narrative of his order will be forthcoming.

“We are not going to get a new verdict from the same jury. The jurors’ personal accounts of their deliberation are not admissible to impeach the verdict,” Schulman wrote Wednesday.

“There is not the slightest suggestion of misconduct therefore regardless of what the jurors think of their verdict, their testimony is not admissible to change it. That said, at the very least, the finding of ‘one incident’ was contrary to the weight of the evidence,” Schulman wrote.

He said he would entertain a motion under court rules and suggested there is a better course of action, adding he will put that information in a narrative order.

In Meehan’s motion, the attorneys said they received emails from four jurors after the verdict last Friday who were distraught at what they said was the state’s misunderstanding of their verdict.

“Juror number 16 has explained in detail that the jury collectively believed that David Meehan had suffered ‘100+ episodes of abuse’ and that it concluded he suffers from “‘one’ incident/case of complex PTSD Physical, emotional abuse).”

After weeks of testimony detailing the horrific sexual and physical abuse Meehan suffered at the hands of then-state employees in the late 1990s at YDC, the jury in his civil lawsuit against the state Department of Health and Human Services, deliberated for only a few hours last Friday before finding the state liable for Meehan’s abuse at what is now called the Sununu Youth Services Center 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.

Within minutes of the verdict being announced, the Attorney General’s Office said the jury’s verdict legally limits the award to just $475,000.

Meehan’s attorneys had asked the judge to promptly convene a hearing as soon as possible, reconvene and poll the jury; and grant such other and further relief as the Court deems just and equitable.

Meehan’s attorney Mark Knights declined comment Wednesday.


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