Lawsuit for child sex abuse in government-run homes nearing $12.5M settlement

·2 min read
Lawyer Lynn Moore is representing three plaintiffs and over a dozen others who came forward. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Lawyer Lynn Moore is representing three plaintiffs and over a dozen others who came forward. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is preparing to formally apologize to child sexual abuse victims — the former residents of provincially-run care homes in the 1970s and 1980s — as a multimillion-dollar settlement awaits final approval.

The facilities included the Whitbourne Boys Home and others in Pleasantville and Torbay.

Lynn Moore, of Mount Pearl firm Morris Martin Moore, is representing three plaintiffs and over a dozen others who came forward, plus anyone else who was abused over the 16-year period laid out in the claim.

A Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday laid out the terms of the proposed settlement.

"Both sides are jointly submitting to the court that it is just, reasonable and fair," Moore said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The terms include $12.5 million paid out to survivors, plus a $25,000 honorarium for the representative plaintiffs and an award of $250,000 to raise awareness of the settlement.

Government to formally apologize

The class action, which took shape in 2015 and was certified in 2019, was set for a hearing in March, Moore said.

Shortly before that date, the province proposed a settlement, avoiding a trial.

A class-action administrator will assess survivors, who can choose to either swear that they were a resident of the homes between 1973 and 1989, without disclosing the details of any abuse, or fill out a longer form, providing the details of what they endured and how it affected them.

The amount each survivor receives will be determined on a pro rata basis that hinges on the severity of the abuse, Moore said.

"I certainly hope that people find this process to be affirming in some way and reassuring, and they feel like they have control of their 'now' and of their narrative in a way that they might not have in an individual action," she said.

It surprised her and her clients, she said, when government lawyers announced the province would formally apologize.

"We were pleased because when you're hurt in this way, it's a very personal, intimate and horrible thing. And to have someone in a position of power in our House of Assembly stand up and say, 'we're sorry' — I think that matters to people. I think that what most people want is some sense of having been heard," she said.

"I know all three of our representative plaintiffs and many of the class members really want to feel like they are making a difference by participating in this class action, feel like they are somehow raising public awareness about the horrors of child sexual abuse and the dangers of residential living."

A Supreme Court justice still has to review the evidence and approve the settlement, she said. The settlement conference continues Thursday.

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