Massachusetts reaches $56 million settlement in deadly Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID outbreak

HOLYOKE (CBS) – The state of Massachusetts has reached a $56 million settlement with the families of victims in the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in 2020.

From March 1 to June 23, 2020, more than 160 veterans contracted COVID and 84 died. The families filed a class action lawsuit.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, veterans who contracted COVID but survived will be awarded no less than $10,000 with an average payment of $20,000.

Estates of veterans who died before June 23, 2020 will receive no less than $400,000 with an average of $510,000.

The payments will not be reduced by attorney fees.

“The COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was a terrible tragedy. While we know nothing can bring back those who were lost, we hope that this settlement brings a sense of closure to the loved ones of the veterans,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

Baker plans to file legislation seeking the funding for the settlement in the coming weeks. He was asked about the settlement during a Thursday appearance on WBUR’s Radio Boston.

“That was a terrible tragedy. I called 100 families who lost someone, talked to 80 of them. Some lasted five minutes, some lasted an hour. That was my opportunity to both express grief and have people talk to me about their family members and about the home,” Baker said. “I think the fact that people engaged in a good faith discussion about how to deal with this issue was a positive one and I’m glad we have a resolution and I hope it provides some closure.”

Laurie Mandeville Beaudette lost her 83-year-old father James Mandeville to COVID at the home in April 2020. “No amount of money will ever replace my dad,” Mandeville Beaudette said. “I would rather he was still here with me.”

Mandeville Beudette said the settlement represents the state acknowledging responsibility for her father’s death.

“I hope now that this case is a landmark case it sets a legal precedent,” Mandeville Beaudette said. “I’m hoping other states take a good hard look at this and treat veterans with the utmost care they deserve.”

An Inspector General’s report found Holyoke Soldiers’ Home superintendent Bennett Walsh lacked leadership and temperament to run the facility.

Walsh and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton were indicted in 2020 for the decision to combine two dementia units, placing residents who were positive for COVID into a space with those without symptoms. The charges were later dismissed.