Former Miracle Meadows students reach $52M settlements with former Christian school, church officials

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By Lacie Pierson

Twenty-nine people who, as children, were mentally, sexually and physically abused by the adults who ran a Christian boarding school in Harrison County will receive $52 million as part of a settlement reached in a civil lawsuit last month.

The people were former students at the now-closed Miracle Meadows School in Salem, where they said school officials cultivated a “culture of silence and secrecy” to hide the abuse from state officials.

The $52 million total comes from multiple settlements the former students received from multiple defendants who were named in the original lawsuits filed in Kanawha Circuit Court. The parties in the case reached the final settlement on Oct. 27. Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit presided over legal proceedings once the lawsuits were consolidated.

The school itself was named as a defendant in the original lawsuits, and the school’s former director, Susan Gayle Clark, and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church North American Division were among the original 14 defendants.

The case was settled on behalf of the former students by Charleston attorneys Jesse Forbes of Forbes Law Offices PLLC and Scott Long of Hendrickson & Long, PLLC; along with Brian Kent and Guy D’Andrea of Laffey, Bucci & Kent LLP in Philadelphia, Pa.

“The abuse suffered by these children would shock the conscious of any West Virginian,” Forbes said. “They were stripped naked, handcuffed, sexually abused and kept in a 5-by-8-foot room with a coffee can for a toilet. This is the stuff straight from a horror movie.” 

The former students suffered abuse that included being chained and shackled to beds, sexually assaulted, starved and beaten, according to a news release from the law firm.

“This settlement will finally bring justice to these innocent children, now adults, and hopefully allow them to begin to heal,” Long said. “The horrific abuse has come to an end but without setting aside money to provide these former children the healing services they desperately need their abuse would continue.”

In the most egregious cases of abuse, children were duct-taped or handcuffed naked in a 5-by-8-foot room with no toilet except a coffee can, no toilet paper, no shower and no interaction with other students, Caitlan McCafferty, with Bucci & Kent, said in a news release.

Read more at: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/legal_affairs/former-miracle-meadows-students-reach-52m-settlements-with-former-christian-school-church-officials/article_9173bf0e-2608-53b3-bb2c-56b6614eb4e5.html

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