Cash-in-Hand Settlement Payments Related to Abuse at Group Home Total $77.3 Million

$65.3M Settlement Reached for Victims of Alleged Abuse at Centralia Kiwanis Boys Home


The former administrator and the estate of the former director of the Centralia Kiwanis Vocational Home, which was reportedly fraught with abuse, negligence and fraud between 1971 and its closure in 1994, have agreed to a $65.3 million settlement to benefit victims of abuse at the home. 

That settlement will be pursued alongside damages for bad faith misconduct against Kiwanis International’s insurance companies, according to an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The legal case against those responsible for the physical and sexual abuse of children at the Kiwanis Vocational Home (KVH) in Centralia began in 2014 with just three victims willing to come forward. 

After those first three, five more victims came forward. Then, seven more. 

“It’s been like that ever since. They’re still coming forward,” said attorney Darrell Cochran, whose Tacoma-based law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala manages the cases against the Kiwanis Vocational Home and the associated Olympia Kiwanis Boys Ranch. 

As of December 2022, Cochran’s firm has had over 70 victims of abuse at the Kiwanis Vocational Home come forward to claim damages against the group home’s administration and the state Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS), which licensed the facility. 

Former residents who spoke to The Chronicle back in 2019 alleged violent hazing, sexual abuse by older boys on younger boys, sexual abuse and physical assaults by staff, and generally poor and unsanitary conditions at the facility. 

At the time of the 2019 article, The Chronicle had identified dozens of reports of assaults and abuse that were reported to Kiwanis and DSHS but were never forwarded to local law enforcement.

The law firm files a new lawsuit for each new group of plaintiffs that comes forward, “so there’s all these different little groups of lawsuits,” Cochran said. 

Those individual lawsuits have resulted in settlements ranging between $40,000 and $9 million, according to previous Chronicle reporting. 

As of Thursday, the cash-in-hand settlements for KVH claims totaled just over $77.3 million, of which the DSHS has paid just over $36.3 million and the Kiwanis insurers have paid just over $41 million. 

A total of three lawsuits related to KVH have gone to trial, according to Cochran. 

Following the death of former KVH director Charles McCarthy in December 2020, “the McCarthy family has said ‘enough is enough’ … and agreed to judgment against themselves,” said Cochran. 

McCarthy’s estate and former KVH administrator Guy Cornwell jointly recently agreed to a $65.3 million covenant judgment, meaning they settled a claim without their insurer’s consent in exchange for a release from liability and potential bad-faith claims against their insurer. 

“The insurance companies were not behaving like they should be behaving under the Washington state rules for insurance fair conduct,” said Cochran, adding, “I feel like the insurance companies have been the root of evil on this over the last seven years, and they obviously have done everything they could to foil the claims of these former residents who are horrifically sexually abused and physically abused … and in doing so, they also exposed the Kiwanis clubs to … bad sentiments that go along with forcing them to continue in this litigation and exposing what happened.” 

Cochran added that the insurance companies’ insistence in pushing the litigation to trial has caused “incredible hardship” for both Cornwell and the McCarthy family. 

“We’re hopeful that the insurance bad faith claims that we have now will allow us to hold them accountable for their wrongdoing,” said Cochran, “I think it’s high time that everybody gets a chance to have this resolved and give peace to people.” 

The covenant judgment will be evaluated by a Tacoma court in the coming weeks, according to Cochran. 

Spurred by the misconduct claims, Kiwanis’ insurance companies have requested a global mediation of claims “in an effort to try and get all of the existing claims, and probably future claims, into some type of settlement that puts it all to rest,” according to Cochran. 

That global mediation hearing will occur in Boston on Tuesday, Jan. 3 and Wednesday, Jan. 4, according to Cochran.