FILE - In this July 31, 2005 file photo, Boy Scouts salute as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Boy Scout Jamboree in Bowling Green, Va. In 2019, financial threats to the Boy Scouts have intensified as multiple states consider adjusting their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago child sex-abuse have a chance to seek redress in the courts. (AP Photo/ Haraz N. Ghanbari)

FILE - In this July 31, 2005 file photo, Boy Scouts salute as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Boy Scout Jamboree in Bowling Green, Va. In 2019, financial threats to the Boy Scouts have intensified as multiple states consider adjusting their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago child sex-abuse have a chance to seek redress in the courts. (AP Photo/ Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims

States have been adjusting their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue

The lawyers’ ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.

Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization is exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But now the financial threats have intensified.

The reason: States have been moving in recent months to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages. New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.

In New York and elsewhere, lawyers are hard at work recruiting clients to sue the Boy Scouts, alleging they were molested as youths by scoutmasters or other volunteers.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers “recognize that this is a very unique and lucrative opportunity,” said attorney Karen Bitar, who formerly handled sex-crime cases as a prosecutor in Brooklyn before going into private practice.

READ MORE: French Cardinal resigns over sexual abuse cover-up

Attorney Tim Kosnoff, a veteran of major sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church, said Tuesday that he and his team have signed up 186 clients from dozens of states in just the past few weeks who want to be part of litigation against the Boy Scouts. Kosnoff said 166 of them identified alleged abusers who have not been named in any of the Boy Scout files made public in past years.

Boy Scouts spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization continues to evaluate its financial situation, and she defended its current abuse-prevention policies. The organization serves more than 2.2 million youths.

A bankruptcy by the Boy Scouts could be unprecedented in its complexity, potentially involving plaintiffs in virtually every state, according to several lawyers. It would be national in scope, unlike the various Catholic Church bankruptcy cases in the U.S., which have unfolded diocese by diocese.

“A Boy Scout bankruptcy would be bigger in scale than any other sex abuse bankruptcy,” said Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, whose firm is representing more than 300 victims in New York state.

Jeffrey Schwartz, a New York-based bankruptcy expert with the firm McKool Smith, said the Boy Scouts don’t have a particularly large flow of cash and might be forced to sell off property in bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts have extensive land holdings, including camping and hiking terrain.

“They’ll play for time,” Schwartz said. “If their defence costs and settlement costs are greater than their membership fees, it could be a death spiral.”

However, Dallas-based trial attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel, part of a team representing numerous sex abuse survivors, said bankruptcy might benefit the Boy Scouts and reduce any payouts to plaintiffs.

“It can be a tool that these institutions use to shield assets and avoid having to reveal some information,” she said. “In many ways, it’s a disservice to victims.”

Illustrating the depth of its problems, the Boy Scouts filed lawsuits last year against six of its own insurers, saying they have improperly refused to cover some of the sex abuse liabilities incurred by the organization. The insurers say the coverage obligation is voided because the Boy Scouts failed to take effective preventive measures such as warning parents that scouts might be abused. The suits are still pending.

The intensifying pressures on the Boy Scouts coincide with the mounting threats to the U.S. Catholic Church in regard to its own long-running sex abuse scandal. Catholic bishops will be meeting in Baltimore in June to discuss the next steps.

Both the church and the Boy Scouts are iconic, historically well-respected institutions now known as having been magnets for pedophiles trying to exploit the trust of boys and their parents.

“When you cloak people in badges of respect, you create the perfect opportunity for bad people to get access to children,” said Chris Hurley, whose Chicago law firm is representing 11 former scouts in sex abuse trials scheduled on a monthly basis this year.

Another common denominator for the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts: Both kept voluminous secret files with names of suspected abusers, yet balked at sharing the information with the public.

Since the 1920s, the Boy Scouts have been compiling “ineligible files,” which list adult volunteers considered to pose a risk of child molestation. About 5,000 of these files have been made public as a result of court action; others remain confidential.

Delimarkos said when any BSA volunteer is added to the database for suspected abuse, “they are reported to law enforcement, removed entirely from any Scouting program and prohibited from re-joining anywhere.”

Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson, who had led many lawsuits against the Catholic Church, released a court deposition in New York on Tuesday in which an expert hired by the Boy Scouts said she tallied 7,819 individuals in the “ineligible files” as of January, as well as 12,254 victims.

READ MORE: Searing testimony heard at Vatican sex abuse summit

READ MORE: Pope’s sex abuse summit: What it did and didn’t do

Anderson expressed hope that litigation triggered by New York’s new Child Victims Act would increase pressure on the Boy Scouts to make public more of the still-confidential files.

Some of the files were ordered released after a 2010 sexual abuse case in Portland, Oregon, that led to a nearly $20 million judgment against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a man molested by a Scout leader in the 1980s.

Paul Mones, the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case, said there are no overall figures on Boy Scout abuse settlements because the details are kept confidential.

Both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church say they now have policies in place to sharply curtail abuse that abounded in past decades. In the Boy Scouts ’ case, the steps included requiring criminal background checks for all staff and volunteers, and requiring two or more adult leaders be present with youth at all times during scouting activities.

___

David Crary, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali Lake) Chief Fred Robbins takes part in Secwepemc Health Caucus’s “Raising Our Spirits” ceremony Friday, Jan. 22. (Secwepemc Health Caucus Facebook image)
Secwepemc Nation raises spirits through song

More than 150 join virtual ceremony

Rod Hennecker and Karen Greenwood’s small herd of sheep in their winter pen. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile House)
Seedy Saturday goes online

Horse Lake Farm Co-Op not hosting it this year

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
RCMP investigating suspicious trailer found abandoned in Cache Creek

Hazardous materials believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs were found

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read