The state of Vermont has agreed to a $400,000 settlement with a New Hampshire woman and her child in her lawsuit alleging that if state police had done their job, she would not have been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a man who fled from a drug treatment facility.
Vermont will pay $300,000 to the woman Everett Simpson is charged with kidnapping and assaulting last January, according to a news release issued by state police Friday. Another $100,000 will go to her child.
“This settlement will never fully repair the harm done. We admire the victims’ courage and hope for them a full and happy life,” wrote the Vermont Attorney General’s Office in a statement. State police declined to comment further.
The lawsuit filed in March in Chittenden County Superior Court in Burlington, Vt., named both the state of Vermont as well as OAS LLC, the parent company of the Valley Vista substance abuse treatment center.
The lawsuit claims the defendants were negligent in their actions, or lack of actions.
Before the kidnapping, Simpson, a resident of St. Johnsbury, Vt., had been facing criminal charges in Vermont related to a car chase case. He was released from state custody on Jan. 3 after posting $3,000 bail and ordered to attend the Valley Vista treatment facility.
According to court records, Simpson, then 41, left the Bradford, Vt., treatment center on Jan. 4. The next day, according to police, he was at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, where he kidnapped the woman and her young son, pushing them into their car.
Then, court records state, Simpson drove them to a motel in White River Junction, Vt., where he sexually assaulted the 23-year-old woman. Simpson then fled to Pennsylvania where he was arrested after crashing a second car that police say he stole.
When stopped in Pennsylvania, Simpson — who stands 6 foot, 3 inches and weighs 255 pounds — started fighting with police and was stunned with a Taser, according to police.
Vermont State Police later acknowledged that “additional steps should have been taken” in pursuit of Simpson, such as seeking a warrant for his arrest or alerting the public immediately after receiving notice that he left Valley Vista.
A judge on Thursday agreed to a “stipulation of dismissal” by the parties regarding the lawsuit’s claims against the state of Vermont.
The lawsuit’s claims against Valley Vista remain pending, according to court records.
Valley Vista maintains 99 inpatient treatment beds for substance use disorder at two locations in Vermont
The woman and her child, who was 4 years old at the time, were represented by the law firm Shaheen & Gordon of New Hampshire.
“The past couple months have not been easy, but the most important thing is we made it out alive, and my son was not physically harmed,” the woman said in a statement when filing her lawsuit.
Anthony Carr, an attorney representing the woman, did not reply to phone and email messages Friday seeking comment. She also could not be reached Friday for comment.
State and federal criminal charges are pending against Simpson, who is locked up while awaiting trials.
According to the 39-page lawsuit, the state of Vermont and Valley Vista “voluntarily undertook and/or had a duty to undertake the performing of certain services in the event Mr. Simpson” fled the drug treatment center.
Those duties, according to the lawsuit, included that Valley Vista “immediately” notify police if Simpson left against medical advice and that an “arrest warrant will issue immediately if he does leave.”
“It took Valley Vista at least an hour and a half to realize and/or choose to notify Vermont State Police that Mr. Simpson had left their facility,” the lawsuit stated. “This significant delay is inexcusable and a far cry from ‘immediate.’ ”
State police had initially said the agency was not notified by Valley Vista after Simpson fled the facility. However, state police said after further review that wasn’t the case.
The lawsuit included a section with a heading, “Vermont’s conscious disregard.”
In discharging its legal duty, the filing stated, “Vermont was required to take reasonable precautions to protect third parties from the danger created by the escape and/or release of Mr. Simpson including: immediately issuing an arrest warrant as it was required to, issuing a ‘be on the lookout’ alert for Simpson, and issuing a news release informing the public about Simpson.”
The Valley News in Lebanon reported last week that an attorney for Simpson in his criminal federal case was granted the ability to search data on the woman’s smartphone based on a claim by Simpson that the encounter was consensual and they had agreed to meet at the mall.
If convicted, Simpson could be sentenced to life in prison.
The case is the third high-profile, monetary lawsuit settlement involving the Vermont Department of Public Safety in recent months.