After it was revealed that untold thousands of Boy Scouts have been sexually abused by scout leaders and others who had power over them, lawyers from around the country sued the American institution. The national group, Boy Scouts of America (BSA), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February.
As we have mentioned before, New York and other states have recently made it easier for survivors of sexual abuse to sue their abusers in court. The statute of limitations has been eased and, in New York, a one-time window was offered for people whose claims were previously barred by the statute of limitations.
In a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, there are proceedings underway to determine how the victims will be compensated by the BSA. A compensation fund is expected to be set up that victims will be able to access.
But even if the BSA gave over every dollar it had, it probably wouldn’t be enough to provide reasonable compensation to those who were victimized. That leaves the 261 local councils, each of which has property holdings and other assets. Plaintiffs’ lawyers want to ensure that the local councils are not allowed to escape liability.
A barrage of lawsuits as courts reopen
Just this week, nine lawsuits were filed in New York alleging sexual abuse by leaders at three Boy Scout local councils. These were filed just after courts partially reopened after being locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Other lawsuits are being filed in New Jersey and California, at the least, as soon as their courts reopen. The Associated Press estimates that there could be hundreds of lawsuits filed against local councils.
Standing in their way is an injunction issued by the bankruptcy court which blocks the local councils from being sued as part of the bankruptcy compensation fund.
Several plaintiffs’ lawyers are pressing for the injunction to be lifted. This might be done if the councils don’t fully disclose their financial information and agree to a big contribution toward the victims’ compensation fund. Even without pressure, the injunction expires on June 8.
According to internal Boy Scouts files that were revealed in court papers, the organization knew of at least 12,000 boys who were molested — by 7,800 abusers within the organization — since the 1920s.
A lawyer for some plaintiffs estimates that the local councils own about 80% of all the assets of the organization as a whole, with the national office owning only 20%.
While some local councils are reportedly balking at providing the financial information, the time for delay has passed. They will answer for these offenses through the victims’ compensation fund in bankruptcy court or they will answer in individual lawsuits.