Boy Scouts face around 90,000 bankruptcy abuse complaints
The Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection in February amid hundreds of lawsuits alleging decades-long sexual abuse by Boy Scout leaders.
NEW YORK – Nearly 90,000 sexual abuse complaints have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America as Monday’s deadline came to submit claims in the organization’s bankruptcy case.
The number far exceeds initial projections by lawyers across the United States who have enrolled clients since the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy in February amid hundreds of lawsuits alleging decades-long sexual abuse by executives scouts.
“We are devastated by the number of lives affected by past abuses in Scouting and moved by the courage of those who have come forward,” the Boy Scouts said in a statement. “We are sorry that we cannot relieve their pain.”
Hours before the 5 p.m. EST deadline, the number of claims climbed to 88,500, lawyers said.
Eventually, proceedings in federal bankruptcy court will lead to the creation of a compensation fund to pay settlements for abusing survivors whose claims are upheld.
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The potential size of the fund is not yet known and will be the subject of complex negotiations. The national organization is expected to contribute a substantial portion of its assets, which include financial investments and real estate. Boy Scout insurers will also contribute, as will the approximately 260 local Boy Scout councils and businesses that have insured them in the past.
Andrew Van Arsdale, an attorney for a network called Abused in Scouting, said he had registered around 16,000 applicants. He said that number doubled after the Boy Scouts, under the supervision of a bankruptcy judge, launched a nationwide advertising campaign on August 31 to let victims know they had until the 16th. November to seek compensation.
“They spent millions trying to encourage people to come forward,” Van Arsdale said. “Now the question is whether they can keep their pledge.”
The Boy Scouts said they “intentionally developed an open and accessible process to reach survivors and help them take a critical step towards compensation.”
“The response we have seen from survivors has been heartbreaking,” the organization added. “We are deeply sorry.”
Bankruptcy has been painful for the 110-year-old Boy Scouts, who have been a mainstay of American civic life for generations. Its finances were already strained by the sexual abuse settlements and declining membership numbers – now less than 2 million from a peak of over 4 million in the 1970s.
Most outstanding sexual abuse complaints date back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, before the Boy Scouts adopted criminal background checks, abuse prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule. that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities. .
Among the contentious issues that remain to be resolved in the bankruptcy case is the extent to which local scout councils contribute to the compensation fund.
In its bankruptcy filing, the national organization said the councils, which own a lot of real estate and other assets, are separate legal entities and should not be included as debtors in the case. A special committee representing the councils has negotiated what they will pay.
Under the terms of the case, no further sexual abuse claims can be made against the Boy Scouts after Monday. However, attorney Jason Amala, who is part of a legal team representing more than 1,000 claimants, said new claims could still be filed against local councils in some states with victim status laws, such as New York, New Jersey and California. .
Lawyer Paul Mones, who won a $ 19.9 million sexual abuse verdict against Oregon Boy Scouts in 2010, said careful work needed to be done to determine which insurers were responsible for the coverage of the national organization and local councils over the decades in which the abuses occurred.
He said eventual payouts would likely vary depending on the severity and duration of the abuse.
“The number of complaints is mind-boggling,” Mones said, noting that many victims of abuse likely did not come forward. “It’s scary in terms of the amount of horror that has been experienced.”
Some of the claims may be difficult to verify, if they involve allegations of abuse against volunteer Scout leaders whose names did not appear on official lists long ago, Mones said.
One of the official parties to the case, a group of nine sexual abuse survivors representing all victims, called the case “the largest and most tragic bankruptcy ever resulting from sexual abuse liability.”
“More sexual abuse complaints will be filed in connection with the Boy Scouts bankruptcy than any complaints against the Catholic Church across the country,” the Misdemeanors Committee said.
“Sexual abuse in Scouting is unprecedented and the remedies for victims must also be unprecedented,” said committee chair John Humphrey.