Randy Yohe Published

$100 Million Settlement May Prompt State To Rethink Internal Insurance Program

A man speaks into a microphone.
Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

Recently, the West Virginia Board of Risk and Management Insurance (BRIM) settled lawsuits totaling more than $100 million in a case of  abused and victimized children at the now shut down Miracle Meadows religious boarding school in Harrison County. It follows $52 million in previously settled claims

In 2020, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4559 that increased the civil statutes of limitations for child abuse from 22 to 36. This allowed victims to come back years afterward and sue.

In April interim legislative committee meetings, BRIM’s Director Melody Duke told lawmakers the agency may need help to fund anticipated losses.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, was unsure of a legislative funding fix.

“Are we gonna have to bail them out? I don’t know,” Tarr said. “One of the things that we may have to look at is, they insure a lot of nonprofits.”  

Tarr said outside of BRIM insuring public entities, they insure more than 100 high-risk nonprofits. He said the state may need to rethink the risks those clients present.

“It’s terrible what happened to those children,” Tarr said. “There’s no money that can make that up for what happened to them. But we also have to take a look at the security of the state and the coffers of the state to be able to pay to operate.”

Tarr said BRIM has been providing lawmakers information about the nonprofits they insure, but he said it’s not an easy decision on who to cover with a state insurance agency.

“It’s not a simple fix to go through and look and see what each one of them does,” Tarr said. “Even when you look at some of these names, you don’t know who they are or what they do without going through one by one and deciding is this something that the state wants to do? Do we want to be in the business of ensuring very high risk organizations?”

Tarr said making decisions on BRIM is a legislative priority.

BRIM representatives declined to talk to West Virginia Public Broadcasting on their financial situation due to ongoing litigation.