(July 24, 2020) A Boy Scouts lawsuits deadline was extended this last spring for filing claims against the Boy Scouts of America for sex abuse. BSA filed for bankruptcy protection last year in Delaware in an effort to stop abuse survivors from filing more lawsuits. A bankruptcy court complied by accepting the filing and helping “stay” further lawsuits against BSA. But now a court has extended a lawsuit injunction for victims of Boy Scouts sex abuse.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on May 14, 2020 that attorneys agreed on a November 2020 deadline for victims of child sex abuse. A federal MDL court was set up last year in Dover, Delaware for BSA abuse victims.
The Nov. 16 deadline date presented to a judge in May was worked out after attorneys for the official committee representing BSA abuse victims objected to a proposed Oct. 6 deadline. They argued that victims should have at least until Dec. 31, 2020.
Attorneys for BSA sex abuse victims wrote in a court filing: “At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and preoccupied with basic survival, sexual abuse survivors need (a) reasonable period of time after they receive notice from the bankruptcy Court to reflect seriously and make a decision whether to file a claim in this case.”
BSA Bankruptcy attempts to stop further claims
After BSA filed for bankruptcy in Feb. 2020, the Boy Scouts initially proposed a deadline of 80 days after notice of the claims process was published. That action drew quick push back from BSA victims’ attorneys. The Boy Scouts then proposed the October 2020 deadline; BSA argued that it allowed more time than in many Catholic diocese bankruptcy cases. BSA also argued that it provided sufficient time to conduct a nationwide program of print, television, radio and online notices which would allow claimants to submit claim forms.
An attorney representing the Boy Scouts said the notification program is expected to reach more than 100 million people, including more than 95% of the main target audience of men aged 50 and older. An expert hired by the Boy Scouts estimated that age group accounts for more than half of former Boy Scouts and at least 71% of BSA abuse survivors.
Thousands of Boy Scouts Molested
Boy Scout files revealed in court papers show that more than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, though that number is likely much higher, as BSA has destroyed thousands of pages of its perversion files. More recent cases date back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s — prior to the Boy Scouts adoption of mandatory criminal background checks, along with abuse-prevention training and protocols for all BSA staff and volunteers.
BSA attempts to Shelter its Councils
In filing bankruptcy, the Boy Scouts were able to obtain an injunction that halted any further lawsuits against the BSA’s 261 local councils as “related parties.” The local councils run day-to-day operations for local troops, but they are not listed as debtors in the bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts consider their councils to be be legally separate entities, a position that victims’ attorneys hotly dispute.
Attorneys for the abused have made it clear that they will go after campsites, buildings, and other properties owned by the local councils, in seeking sources for compensations funds to victims.
Notably, the injunction to halt lawsuits against BSA does not prevent litigation moving forward against individuals alleged to be abusers. Nor does it prevent the filing of complaints against BSA-related parties.
Bankruptcy Claims Forms Disputes
Attorneys have argued at length about the bankruptcy claim form child sex abuse victims will need to complete. The Boy Scouts proposed a form that includes boxes to check for describing the nature and impact of the abuse. It also includes narrative sections which ask claimants to describe the sexual abuse and the harm it caused “in as much detail as you can recall.”
Victims’ attorneys said such narrative information should be optional on the initial proof of claim form. Overseeing the claims filed in Delaware, Judge Silverstein agreed with victims’ attorneys.
A child sex abuse expert hired by the victims committee, Jon Conte, told Judge Silverstein it would be better to ask for summary information in the first stage, and then to let the claimant know more detail might be requested later. Mr. Conte said, “A narrative is potentially traumatic.”
Adult Victims of BSA
Attorneys for childhood sex abuse victims also objected to the form’s allowing sex abuse claims that involve non-consenting adult Scouting participants.
Judge Silverstein said she would allow attorneys time to work out a solution for handling sexual abuse claims by adult victims.
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