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Update: What’s Happening With the Boy Scout Lawsuits?

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Update: What’s Happening With the Boy Scout Lawsuits?

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For many claimants, the largest sex abuse case against a single organization in the history of the United States has reached an end.

On Thursday, September 8, bankruptcy judge Laurie Selber Silverstein approved a Chapter 11 restructuring plan that allows the Boy Scouts of America to begin settling claims and resume its scouting opportunities.

The scouting organization filed for bankruptcy after it was hit with a record-setting number of claims alleging that former scouts were sexually abused by scout leaders. By November 2020, more than 92,000 former scouts had filed lawsuits against the Scouts, individuals, and organizations that have hosted Scout troops and activities, including churches.

Judge Silverstein had rejected a previous offer because she said that it would have gone too far in protecting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from other claims not related to the Boy Scout abuse. Many alleged victims say that the abuse occurred when the Mormon Church was their charter organization.

Richard Mason, an attorney representing Boy Scouts, said that "Today's order means abuse survivors will get the compensation they deserve and millions of youth will benefit from scouting for years to come."

Anne Andrews, an attorney representing the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, said she was "overjoyed for survivors.... They wanted Boy Scouts to survive, and they wanted to ensure this never happened to another child."

A central component of the settlement is a nearly $2.7 billion dollar trust for survivors of abuse. The settlement also precludes any future lawsuit against the parties who are funding the trust. 

What Happened With the Lawsuits?

With millions of young members and thousands of adult volunteers, The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the states. For decades, the organization has been subject to allegations of sexual abuse involving scouts and scout leaders. Alleged victims have been suing the organization since the 1980s.

In one high-profile 2010 case, Lewis v. Boys Scouts of America et al, a former Boy Scout accused his scout leader of abusing him. The leader had confessed to the scouts that he had molested 17 boys, but he was still allowed to continue working as a scout leader. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury ordered that the Scouts must pay $18.5 million as punishment (the largest punitive damage award to a single plaintiff in a child abuse case in US history). 

While the Scouts had, for the most part, kept abuse allegations quiet, this case shown a spotlight on an issue that was far more wide-spread than previously thought. As a result of another 2010 case, the Boy Scouts released internal records documenting abuse going back to the 1920s. These files showed that scout leaders were allowed to remain in their positions after abuse has occurred, and critics of the Scouts say that these files show that the Scouts covered up the cases and colluded with law enforcement to keep the allegations quiet. 

As more and more lawsuits accused Scout leaders of abuse, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2020. Several states amended their laws, extending the statute of limitations for filing a claim of abuse.

The former scouts who filed the claims became creditors of an organization, which then had to sign off on any settlement plan proposed by the Boy Scouts. Ultimately, 86% of claimants agreed to support the Scout’s settlement plan. Some holdouts still oppose the settlement, and some of the insurers involved in the settlement plan to appeal. The settlement money is coming from the Boy Scouts, local councils, insurers, and organizations that have chartered Scouting units and activities, including churches.

What’s Next For the Victims? 

The bankruptcy settlement says that individual claimants can receive between $3,500 and $2.7 million, depending on factors like the severity of alleged abuse and when and where it allegedly occurred. While the overall payout is a historic amount, the ultimate amount of compensation the alleged victims are set to receive is comparatively low for sexual abuse cases (roughly $33,000).

The Boy Scouts who filed lawsuits now have three options: 

Accept $3,500 in a process that requires minimal documentation and vetting;  

Look into how much they receive depending on the type of abuse and other factors, which could require some additional documentation

Go forward with an independent review process that would to replicate the award they might have received in a civil court case.  

There may be a fourth option if a Scout was abused by someone who is not involved with the settlement trust: filing a lawsuit against the responsible party.

Specifically, the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), a longtime partner of the Boy Scouts, was named by more than 2,300 claimants as their charter organization when the alleged abuse occurred. Since the church was not included as a debtor in the settlement, victims can still sue the church for abuse that occurred. 

Conversely, churches like The Methodist Church that were included in the settlement cannot be sued. 

To learn more about potential damages available from the Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy settlement, contact an attorney who has experience handling claims of abuse. 

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