Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says the province will attempt to settle a class-action lawsuit involving former residents of a Halifax orphanage out of court.

McNeil said a letter from the provincial Justice Department has been sent to lawyers representing the 150 former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children.

McNeil won't say what a potential dollar figure could look like but says a settlement would only be reached if both sides are able to agree.

He says the outcome won't affect his campaign promise to hold a full public inquiry into alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the facility over a 50-year period up until the 1980s.

The attempt to settle out of court is a departure from the path taken by the previous NDP government.

The allegations in the class-action have not been tested in court and previously lawyers for the government have argued that some of them are based on speculation or hearsay.