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Lawyers in DCYF case win big payday

Attorneys representing the family in lawsuit against agency due $2.7M

By Damien Fisher - Staff Writer | May 26, 2018

MANCHESTER – The attorneys who represented the family suing the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families over a horrific sexual abuse case can collect 40 percent of the $6.75 million awarded in the case.

Bedford attorney Rus Rilee and his associates are in line to receive $2.7 million for successfully representing the family of two young girls who were sexually abused while their cases were being supervised by DCYF.

While DCYF objected to Rilee and his associates collecting that much money, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson sided with Rilee and the family in allowing for the award. The state wanted Rilee and his team to collect the minimum 25 percent fee.

Abramson wrote in her order released Friday that Rilee and his team provided excellent services to the family, and reformed state law in the process. The family also testified in court they wanted Rilee and his associates to receive the full 40 percent.

“Based on the quality of the work performed, the results achieved … the Court finds a fee in excess of the minimum is warranted,” Abramson wrote.

The settlement, reached in April, is the largest tort settlement amount for individual plaintiffs in New Hampshire history. Rilee also steered the family to settle with Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire and Easter Seals of New Hampshire for their reported roles in the case. The terms of those settlement agreements are not public.

Rilee said Friday he wants to make sure the family, and the two girls, are able to seek healing now that the agreement has been approved. With Abramson’s order, the money can be released to the family.

“We are happy that this long legal process is finally over, that the girls can get the medical

treatment they so desperately need, and that the family can begin to move forward with their lives,” Rilee said.

Rilee declined to comment about his fees. Abramson wrote in her order that Rilee has been unable to take other clients, devoting himself solely to this case and working on the lawsuit without pay for several years.

Rilee fought DCYF all the way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in order to force the agency to drop the veil of confidentiality. The court ruled against DCYF, which was seeking to have any lawsuit deemed confidential, forcing it to be filed under seal. Rilee successfully argued that any lawsuit brought should be done in the open.

The two girls are known as N.B. and J.B., and their adoptive parents as T.C. and D.C. in the lawsuit to protect their identities. The Telegraph will not use their full names.

The family filed the lawsuit against DCYF two years ago, naming Easter Seals and CASA of New Hampshire as additional defendants.

At the time of the sexual assaults in late 2013, N.B., then 4, and J.B., then 18 months, were in foster care because of alleged physical abuse by their biological father. They were initially removed from the home in 2012 and placed with the foster parents who have since adopted the girls.

The biological parents confessed to the crimes in 2014, and are now serving life prison sentences after police found the videos depicting violent sexual assaults on the two children.

According to the lawsuit, DCYF staffer Jennifer Damien and CASA guardian ad litem Lynn Liptay were told numerous times by the foster family, that the children were being abused by the biological parents. The children had been removed from their parents in 2012 and sent to live with the foster parents.

Throughout 2012 and 2013, Damien, Liptay and an Easter Seals volunteer, known as “Missy” in the lawsuit, supervised visits between the children and the biological parents. During some of the supervised visits, the children were assaulted during “bath time,” when the Easter Seals volunteer allowed the parents time alone with the children, according to the lawsuit.

In September 2013, Claremont Police Detective Emily Cobb sent Damien a copy of an investigative report in which the biological father is accused of sexually assaulting another child.

Damien continued to allow unsupervised visits with the parents even after being sent the police report. This was finally stopped in November 2013 when the oldest child started telling the foster parents about being sexually assaulted, resulting in the biological parents’ arrest.

When confronted by the adoptive parents and Cobb, Damien reported said she wanted to give the biological parents “the opportunity to fail,” according to the

lawsuit.

This lawsuit, along with other events, helped advance reforms in New Hampshire to the way children are protected.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.

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