Judge won’t reconvene jury to consider $38 million YDC verdict

May 8 — A Superior Court judge will not allow a jury to clarify his decision to award David Meehan $38 million for physical and sexual abuse he suffered while residing at the Youth Development Center in the 1990s.

Judge Andrew Schulman said he might consider another monetary judgment if the state waived its right to a new trial.

Schulman issued the order in response to a request for an emergency hearing from Meehan’s attorneys, after receiving emails from at least three jurors saying their verdict was misunderstood by the attorney general’s office.

The office, which represents the Department of Health and Human Services, says Meehan should receive $475,000 because the jury listed only one “incident” on its verdict form after deliberating Friday.

Schulman said it would not be appropriate to recall the jury in an effort to clarify its verdict. The jury could have been asked to clarify its verdict before being discharged, but the opportunity to make such a request was waived, the judge said.

“In the 24 hours following the verdict, jurors were exposed to intense publicity and criticism of their verdict,” Schulman wrote. “We will not get a new verdict from the same jury. Jurors’ personal accounts of their deliberations are not admissible to challenge the verdict. There is not the slightest suggestion of misconduct.”

On Friday, the jury found the state 100 percent liable for Meehan’s injuries and awarded it $18 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in aggravated compensatory damages.

Meehan’s attorneys, David Vicinanzo and Rus Rilee, say this incident is inconsistent with the jury’s $38 million award. Lawyers said it was clear the term “incident” on the verdict form was confusing.

“This is not a case in which the moving party speculates on jury error or is somehow grasping at straws. This is a case in which three of the twelve jurors took their duty seriously enough to come forward and attempt to correct what they perceived to be a miscarriage of justice,” the lawyers wrote.

Assistant Attorney General Brandon Chase disagreed.

“DHHS strongly disagrees that there is any legal basis for relief with respect to the jury’s finding regarding an incident,” Chase wrote in opposition.

Schulman agrees with the plaintiff.

“At the very least, the finding of ‘an incident’ is against the weight of the evidence,” Schulman ruled.

Chase said both sides agreed not to tell jurors about the legal cap because it could influence their decision.

Meehan testified that she was raped, beaten hundreds of times and held in solitary confinement for extended periods between 1997 and 1998.

Meehan’s lawsuit sparked more than 1,000 similar lawsuits from former residents of the juvenile detention center. It was the first of the cases to go to trial.