For more than a century, American boys have looked to scouting as way to enjoy outdoor activities and develop new skills. However, legal claims and documents obtained from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have shown that many youths were sexually abused by troop leaders and other adult volunteers in positions of authority. Perhaps even more shocking, BSA executives knew for years about the predators yet failed in most cases to notify law enforcement.
BSA officials have confirmed that the group is considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the face of numerous lawsuits, legal fees and insurance costs. Various current and looming issues relating to sexual abuse claims have put the organization’s solvency at risk:
- The “ineligible volunteer” files — The crippling litigation has been enabled in part by the release of the BSA’s detailed records identifying scout leaders and other adult volunteers who were credibly accused of abusing troop members and permanently barred from the organization. A lawsuit in Oregon led that state’s highest court to order the release of these “ineligible volunteer” files covering a period of 20 years. Since then, other cases have expanded the discovery of records that reflect BSA’s awareness of sexual predators among its leaders.
- Litigation against BSA and affiliates — Hundreds of claims have been filed against BSA and some settlements have exceeded $10 million. Moreover, BSA is engaged in litigation with its insurers about whether judgments and settlements should be indemnified given that the organization knew about the abuse and didn’t prevent it. Even religious groups formerly affiliated with the Boy Scouts, such as the Mormon Church, have been sued.
- Statute of limitations reform — New York’s passage of the Child Victims Act, which allows survivors to file civil claims until age 55, intensifies the threat of further BSA liability. Other states have already enacted, or are considering reforming their statutes of limitations to give older sexual abuse victims a chance at justice. The possibility of more payouts under these laws, combined with the documentation that has been released, might be part of the reason why BSA recently revamped its program by allowing girls to join.
Should the BSA file for bankruptcy protection, victims might lose their ability to obtain a fair financial recovery. Consulting with an attorney who understands the law and latest developments in child sexual abuse litigation will help you understand your options.
Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson advises New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children by Boy Scout volunteers, clergy members, teachers and others who exercised control over them. Please call us at [ln::phone] or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.