Nov. 1—People who were incarcerated as children in New Hampshire are set to receive notice in the coming days about the process to collect a piece of a settlement fund for survivors of abuse in juvenile detention facilities.
The $100 million fund was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu this summer, as hundreds of people alleging abuse at the state's juvenile detention facilities prepared to sue the state. The settlement fund process was slammed by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and by attorneys representing hundreds of victims alleging abuse in a lawsuit against the state. The settlement process will only compensate survivors of physical and sexual abuse within narrow definitions.
Notices of the settlement fund will be published in newspapers and on social media. The process to claim funds begins Jan. 1, 2023.
People who were abused as children and teenagers at the Youth Development Center, the Sununu Youth Services Center, the State Industrial School, the Philbrook School, the Tobey Special Education School, the Youth Services Center, and any other facility that housed adjudicated delinquent youth, and youth accused of crimes before their trials are eligible for a piece of the fund.
People who want to file claims of abuse — instead of bringing a lawsuit against the state — may give up their right to sue later.
The Attorney General's Office gets the first crack at evaluating victims' claims and deciding on a compensation amount.
If a victim does not agree with the attorney general's decision, they can ask for more, withdraw their complaint and file a lawsuit, or appeal to the state-appointed fund administrator, former Justice John Broderick, and give up the right to sue.
Sexual abuse claims are capped at $1.5 million and physical abuse claims will net no more than $150,000 — no matter how much abuse survivors endured. Some plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by attorneys David Vincinanzo and Rus Rilee have alleged years of rapes and beatings, and the attorneys have said the payments are often less than what survivors could win in court.
"The State's settlement process created to favor only the State is not a product of negotiation with the victims and is unfriendly to them," Vincinanzo wrote in an emailed statement.
The fund's defenders say the settlement process is faster than a lawsuit.