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$80 Million Settlement Against Kamehameha School


A more comprehensive article can be found here on Washington Post.

After decades of abuse, the children attending Kamehameha School in Honolulu and suffered abuse at the hands of a trusted psychiatrist can start to heal and move on. Davis Levin Livingston is proud to announce that it helped victims of abuse obtain an $80 million settlement against Kamehameha School. The school has decided to settle with the victims in this ground-breaking settlement and case.

After two full years of negotiation and lawsuits, Davis Levin Livingston has helped the abused men who are victims of abuse achieve an $80 million settlement from the school. The school will also take necessary steps to prevent such abuses in the future. A key component of this agreement is that the school must provide an independently run hotline service for the reporting of such abuses.

Largest Hawai’i Personal Injury Settlement

  1. KS will pay the 32 victims a total of $80 million dollars.
  2. Kamehameha Schools will maintain an independently run hotline service so anybody can report any abuse or provide any information of wrongdoing happening at any of the campuses or in the organization. The hotline staff will not be employees of Kamehameha Schools. Instead, the hotline will be operated by an independent service.
  3. The person who will review the data received from the hotline will be an independent lawyer, child abuse expert or other person who is not under the control of Kamehameha Schools. That person will make independent decisions about whether to call the police or Child Protective Services, or whether to recommend internal action. The Plaintiffs felt this was extremely important, because when Michael Chun received information about Dr. Browne’s abuse, he simply consulted with in-house counsel and then made improper decisions to protect the school’s reputation. Under the new system to be implemented as part of the settlement, an independent person will review and initially respond to any hotline complaints, without influence or control by Kamehameha Schools.
  4. Kamehameha Schools has agreed, unilaterally, to undertake extensive training for their faculty using an advisory group of experts in the field of childhood sexual abuse, in order to protect current and future students from the types of abuse that went on while our clients were students.
  5. Most importantly, Kamehameha Schools has agreed to earmark money for a fund, through which Kamehameha Schools students who were and are victims of physical and sexual abuse can receive help, including therapy, reimbursement of medical expenses, and programs to heal from trauma.

The Backstory

Kamehameha School is a large, 600-acre school that provides high-quality education to students in the area. It was created through an endowment fund, established by the last ancestor of King Kamehameha I, the monarch who brought together the Hawaiian Islands. Yet, this endowment, which promised to bring with it support for the region’s most in-need children did not, in any way, prepare them for the abuse they would suffer at the hands of Robert Browne, who served as the school’s psychologist from 1958 through 1985. Browne was the Chief of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital during that period of time. The school used that facility’s services for students in need.

During that 27-year period, it was found that Browne repeatedly raped, drugged, and tormented numerous children he came into contact with during that time frame. According to claims made from several adults who suffered at the hands of Browne during that time, Browne physically and emotionally traumatized and abused these individuals secretly.

According to depositions from several students, Brown raped and sodomized boys. He brandished a revolver, told the boys they were “nobody” and told them that the treatment they received was, in fact, part of treatment and was normal. Many of the boys would go on to suffer from drug abuse, due to the drugs they were forced to take during treatment. Some would die as a result of drug abuse. Some committed suicide.

A key concern beyond the abuse these individuals suffered was the school’s admitted lack of taking action when such concerns were brought to the attention of staff members. Several claims, including reports made by children to the school’s director of counseling as well as other school employees, were quieted. The school took no action to stop the abuses nor to help students after the evidence came to light.

After being confronted by a former student directly in 1991, Browne committed suicide. Even after this occurred, there were no actions taken on behalf of those who suffered to provide support or even to determine if additional cases of abuse existed.

The school today has not denied any of the allegations made by the former students. It agreed to settle the claim for $80 million on behalf of the students. A claim filed against St. Francis Hospital by the students has yet to be settled.