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From left, Tim Lessman, Knutson + Casey; Josh Peck, Jeff Anderson and Associates; Rich Ruohonen, TSR Injury Law. Not pictured is Randy Knutson of Knutson + Casey.
From left, Tim Lessman, Knutson + Casey; Josh Peck, Jeff Anderson and Associates; Rich Ruohonen, TSR Injury Law. Not pictured is Randy Knutson of Knutson + Casey.

2021 Attorneys of the Year: Minor Does v. The Hills Youth and Family Services

In the summer of 2018, a group of boys ran away from The Hills Youth and Family Services, a juvenile detention and treatment center in Duluth. The four boys fled the Hills in order to escape repeated sexual assault and exploitation by Mark David Painter, an adult male counselor employed by the facility.

Lax supervision and oversight at the facility allowed Painter to prey on the at-risk youth. Police found the boys not far from the facility and began an investigation, which resulted in criminal charges against Painter. The perpetrator admitted abusing the boys, pleaded guilty, and is currently serving 15 years in prison.

By concidence, a colleague of Randy Knutson knew the father of one of the boys. Knutson and Tim Lessman of the Knutson + Casey law firm were joined by attorneys Josh Peck of Jeff Anderson and Associates and Rich Ruohonen of TSR Injury Law. The three law firms combined their resources to hold The Hills accountable, bringing claims on behalf of the boys.

But it wasn’t easy.

“They told us there was a $2 million policy for all four kids, and we claimed that each incident was different, so the total should be $8 million,” Knutson says. “We argued about that for a long time, and both sides hired lawyers who were experts in insurance contract interpretation. Once that got sorted out, we were able to settle it.”

After more than two years of litigation by the law firms the cases were settled in 2021 for an undisclosed seven-figure amount.

One of the four boys can’t be located. The boy represented by Knutson + Casey “is not doing great,” according to Knutson.

Still, he says, “I hope that knowing he has money he can use the rest of his life ends up being helpful.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.

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