In a civil lawsuit, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff on top of other compensation. Punitive damages financially punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior in the future.
Boy Scouts Sex Abuse
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) aims to instill moral and ethical values in the youth of America. However, despite the organization’s honorable mission, the BSA faces increasing criticism over its handling of systemic sexual abuse in the organization.
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A History of Sexual Abuse in Boy Scouts
Sexual abuse allegations in the Boy Scouts led to several investigations throughout the years. These investigations exposed a history of abuse in the organization dating back decades. Often, scout leaders or adult volunteers abused scouts who were minors at the time. Other allegations highlight abuse committed between scouts.
In its early years, the Boy Scouts lacked safety measures to mitigate abuse. Today, the organization has enacted several regulations to prevent abuse. Before these regulations were in place, there were regular practices in the organization that enabled abuse:
- Unvetted, adult volunteers led scout troops. Volunteers weren’t required to undergo background checks. A person with a history of abuse could join the organization without revealing his criminal record.
- One adult volunteer would lead a large troop. One scoutmaster could take a large number of boys on overnight trips. Sequestered locations and a lack of supervision made abuse possible on these trips. Today, each troop requires at least two adults to be present for any scouting activity.
- The reputation of the Boy Scouts instilled trust among parents. The Boy Scouts has a well-known reputation for fostering good values in young boys. This reputation encouraged parents to enroll their sons without questioning their sons’ safety.
Investigations also uncovered secret files of abusers within the organization. The list was known internally as the “ineligible volunteer” folders. Externally, people refer to it as the “perversion files.”
Boy Scout Perversion Files
The Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” were a running list of abuse allegations. Many of the abusers on the list were removed from positions in the organization. However, the Boy Scouts did not report the abuse to local law enforcement agencies.
A 2010 lawsuit filed by six former scouts forced the organization to hand over the files. The lawsuit ended with a win for the plaintiffs and an award of $18.5 million in punitive damages. Shortly after, in 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts to publicly release the secret files.
The “perversion files” total more than 15,000 pages. After their release, The New York Times reported the documents identified 1,247 abusive scout leaders between 1965 and 1985. However, recent research shows even greater numbers of abusers detailed in the files.
In 2019, Janet Warren, a professor at the University of Virginia, released her findings after reviewing the files. The Boy Scouts began compiling the files following World War I. Warren’s research identified 7,819 abusers active in the organization between 1944 and 2016. Cumulatively, Warren’s research identified 12,254 victims.
The list was meant to document abuse and keep abusers out of the organization. But, several of the listed abusers managed to stay active in the Boy Scouts. The incidents on the list weren’t reported to the police and the list wasn’t published publicly. This allowed many abusers to move from troop to troop, continuing their abuse.
The “perversion files” offer a glimpse into decades of abuse in the organization. However, experts agree the list isn’t the complete picture. Reporting child sexual abuse can be very difficult for victims. It can take decades for a victim to heal and feel safe enough to report abuse. There could be thousands more unaccounted victims of Boy Scouts sex abuse.
Boy Scouts Lawsuits
A long history of hidden sex abuse has led to hundreds of sexual abuse cases against the Boy Scouts. The plaintiffs in these sexual abuse lawsuits claim the organization failed to protect scouts from abusive volunteers. The Boy Scouts currently faces more than 300 sex abuse lawsuits.
More former scouts are expected to come forward with their stories of abuse. However, because the national organization filed for bankruptcy, litigation against the Boy Scouts is currently suspended. Victims seeking compensation should file abuse claims through the bankruptcy proceedings. They need to file before November 16, 2020.
How Long Do I Have to File a Boy Scouts Sex Abuse Lawsuit?
To file a lawsuit, a person must file within a set legal time limit known as the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (criminal charges versus a civil claim).
For many sexual abuse cases against the Boy Scouts, there may be several applicable legal deadlines. It’s not uncommon for Boy Scout troops to cross state lines for camping trips or other scouting excursions. This means abuse was possible in the troop’s home state as well as the states the troop visited.
A victim can potentially file a lawsuit in any state relevant to their experiences of abuse. It could be the state where abuse occurred or, in some cases, the state where the organization is headquartered. This can benefit a victim if the state where the case is filed has an extended legal deadline. Our legal team can help victims of abuse determine where to file a lawsuit based on their experiences.
Boy Scout Settlements
The Boy Scouts have paid millions of dollars to victims of sexual abuse through settlements and verdicts. Between 2017 and 2019, the Boy Scouts paid roughly $150 million in settlements and legal fees.
To handle the growing number of costly lawsuits and settlements, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is used to protect businesses that are struggling financially. The process evaluates and reorganizes a business’ assets. In doing so, a business can pay off debts while maintaining enough capital to continue operating.
The bankruptcy filing pauses all pending lawsuits against the organization. In order to pay victims who have or intend to file a lawsuit, the Boy Scouts plans to set up a victims’ compensation trust. This plan has yet to be accepted by the bankruptcy court.
If the court accepts the plan to create a trust, victims will be paid an amount of money determined by the court. However, the amount paid by similar trusts is typically less than the amount a victim could win through a lawsuit.
In May 2020, a deadline was established within the bankruptcy proceedings for victims seeking compensation. Victims must file a claim of abuse through the Boy Scouts bankruptcy proceedings. These claims must be filed by November 16, 2020, in order to be considered for compensation.
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Barron, J. (2019, April 23). Nearly 8,000 Boy Scout Leaders Have Been Accused of Sexual Abuse Since 1944, Researcher Found. The New York Times.
Bomey, N. (2020, February 18). Boy Scouts bankruptcy: What we know about victims, assets and the future of scouting. USA Today.
Johnson, K. (2012, June 14). Oregon Justices Approve Release of Boy Scouts’ ‘Perversion Files.’ The New York Times.
Johnson, K (2012, October 18). Boy Scout Files Give Glimpse Into 20 Years of Sex Abuse. The New York Times.
Kang, Y.P. (2020, February 25). Boy Scouts Victims Fear Delay Tactics Are Driving Ch. 11. Law 360.
Kelly, C. (2020, May 26). Deadline set for abuse survivors to file claims in Boy Scouts bankruptcy. USA Today.
Salamacha, R. (2020, February 19). Boy Scouts of America file for bankruptcy amid sex abuse scandal. Jurist.
Wikipedia. (2020, March 3). Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved February 27, 2020.