MANCHESTER - Shaheen & Gordon, P.A., has settled the first claim under New Hampshire's YDC Settlement Fund on behalf of a client who was sexually and physically assaulted at YDC in the 1970s, the state's Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.
Attorneys at the firm have since announced that they are withdrawing from the consolidated litigation in state court and will be filing the majority of their claims through the legislative fund within the next 30 days.
"We look forward to helping obtain many more recoveries for these victims who have waited far too long for justice," says Attorney Anthony Carr, Co-Chair of the firm's YDC Victim Compensation Group. "We've worked closely with the state to ensure the fund meets our clients' needs. A year ago that was not the case, but substantive changes were made through open communication with the Attorney General's Office. They listened to us and the victims and showed that they're really trying to do the right thing with this process."
The name of the victim and amount of the claim were not disclosed.
The YDC Settlement Fund and Claims Process compensates former residents of multiple state facilities who were victims of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by staff in prior decades. According to Carr, the most important factors for choosing to file through the fund are the timeframes, compensation, and a trauma-informed approach.
"It will take at least five years before the majority of victims will get a trial date in the state court litigation," says Michael Noonan, managing partner and co-chair of the YDC Victim Compensation Group. "And even longer before they see justice in the form of compensation. In the meantime, they'll have to be deposed and have their entire life put under a microscope in litigation."
Conversely, under the guidelines for the fund, victims who file soon should get full and complete resolution by the end of this year. The fund caps damages at $1.5 million, while under state law the current cap for damages per RSA 541-B:14 is only $475,000 per claimant. Finally, in avoiding litigation, victims going through the fund do not have to get deposed or have their traumatic experiences subject to public scrutiny. At most, they may have to participate in an informational interview that will not be adversarial.