David Meehan v State of New Hampshire, et al

  • Court: State of New Hamisphere, Merrimack County, Superior Court
  • Case Number: 217-2020-CV-00026
  • Filed: January 11th, 2020
  • Judges: Andrew R Schulman | Brian T Tucker | John C Kissinger, JR | Richard B McNamara
  • Case Type: Tort-Other

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff(s): David Meehan
    • Counsel for Plaintiff: Cyrus F. III Rilee | Nathan P. ESQ Warecki | Michael Ellis ESQ Straus | Kierstan E. ESQ Schultz | Daniel ESQ Deane | Mark Tyler ESQ Knights | David Andrew ESQ Vicinanzo | Laurie B. ESQ Rilee
  • Defendant(s): Richard Brown| Jeffrey Buskey | Frank Davis | Department of Health and Human Services | Division of Children, Youth, and Families | Division of Juvenile Justice Services | John and Jane Does 1-100 | Kerrin Rounds, Acting Commissioner, DHHS | Stephen Murphy | Thomas Searles | State of New Hampshire | Sununu Youth Services Center | James Woodlock
    • Counsel for Defendants: Jennifer S. ESQ Ramsey | Amanda Noelle ESQ Palmeira | Richard C. ESQ Guerriero, Jr.

Verdict Information

  • Verdict Date:  May 3rd, 2024
  • Damages Awarded to Plaintiff(s): $38 million
    • Compensatory damages: $18 million
    • Enhanced damages: $20 million

 About the Case


This is a proposed class action lawsuit brought by David, a former resident of the New Hampshire Youth Development Center (YDC). The lawsuit targets the state agencies responsible for operating the YDC juvenile detention facility. It also targets numerous individual employees and agents. In this class action claim, David seeks to represent a putative class. This putative class would consist of all those who were minors residing at the YDC. They allegedly endured physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, solitary confinement, and deprivation of education at the hands of YDC personnel.

Plaintiff alleges abuse at the YDC. The class action complaint detailed that while in the legal custody of the YDC as children, David and the putative class members were systematically subjected to unconscionable abuse by YDC staff, including Stephen Buskey, Jeffrey Murphy, Jim Woodlock, Michael Davis, Stephen Brown, and Glenn Searles. Buskey and Murphy were accused of repeatedly raping and sexually assaulting David and others at the YDC, sometimes multiple times per day in horrific ways, such as anal and oral rape, which could constitute criminal sexual assault charges.”

Woodlock and Brown were alleged to have facilitated these rapes at the YDC by holding doors open, falsely imprisoning victims, and being present as accomplices.  When David and others reported the abuse, supervisors like Searles displayed deliberate indifference by dismissing their claims outright according to the pleadings.


Beyond the sexual abuse allegations, the class action complaint describes how David and the class members also suffered frequent physical battery. They endured intentional infliction of emotional distress from YDC staff, which manifested in severe beatings, harassment, and psychological torment. They were also allegedly subject to cruel and unusual punishment by being placed in solitary confinement called “OOC” for extended periods of weeks or months. During this confinement, they received no education at all. This was in violation of state law and constitutional rights guaranteeing access to public education. The abuse at the YDC caused severe and lasting emotional trauma, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric conditions, according to the tort claims.

The lawsuit contends that pervasive and widespread misconduct and negligence occurred at the YDC. This was known by top administrators and oversight agencies like DHHS and DJJS. Allegedly, they breached fiduciary duties and failed to protect children from harm through inaction, cover-ups, and indifferent policies. David argues that this systemic misconduct gave rise to multiple causes of action. These include negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, constitutional rights violations, Title IX violations, and violations of the state constitutional right to education.

The class claims seek to hold all parties responsible for creating and perpetuating the “Lord of the Flies” environment that allowed such horrific abuses to occur repeatedly to minors in their care through conscious disregard for a known risk of harm. David and his counsel allege a highly coordinated effort to conceal and deny the abuse through intimidation of victims.


The lawsuit’s prayer for relief seeks compensatory and enhanced compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages in light of the extreme allegations, for the injuries suffered by David and the proposed class from the alleged abuse at the YDC. It also demands court-supervised implementation of policies and procedures to prevent such mistreatment from occurring again.

In total, the prayer for relief seeks not only financial compensation for the plaintiffs’ injuries but also measures to promote accountability, prevent future harm, and uphold the rights and dignity of vulnerable individuals in institutional care.

 Jury Verdict

 The jury unanimously found that prior to January 11, 2017, David Meehan had neither discovered nor would have discovered, through reasonable diligence, both his injuries and the causal link between DHHS’s conduct and those injuries, thereby preserving the timeliness of his lawsuit. Additionally, they concluded that Meehan suffered injuries during his residency at YDC, and DHHS’s negligence or breach of fiduciary duty significantly contributed to these injuries, establishing the legal causation necessary for DHHS’s accountability. The jury awarded Meehan $38 million in total damages. This comprised $18 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in enhanced damages.

The article published on wmur.com states that the New Hampshire Department of Justice released a statement indicating that Meehan will only receive $475,000. The statement cites state law, which caps the amount of damages per incident.

Court Documents:


Jury Verdict

Press Release