Victims of sexual abuse have the option to hold a variety of people legally responsible for this heinous act. There is a common misconception that the police and the authorities are the only parties that can take action against the abuser. The civil court system can also hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.
One of the organizations that has been beset by allegations of sexual abuse is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Victims of Boy Scouts sexual abuse can file a lawsuit against the organization to receive compensation for the harm that was done to them and for the BSA’s failure to protect their Scouts. A Pennsylvania Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawyer can help victims file a claim and take the case to court.
Filing Suit Against the Boy Scouts of America
When it comes to deciding who to sue, the Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawyer will advise victims not to limit the lawsuit to only the abuser. This is because the abuser will likely not have the assets necessary to satisfy what is likely to be a large judgment. This means that the victim will only be able to collect pennies on the dollar when it comes to enforcing the judgment. This is hardly worth the pain of going to court and reliving the difficult chapter of the victim’s life.
Plaintiffs will want to add the abuser’s employer or supervisor to the lawsuit. This is even more important when there is an organization involved that has significant financial means. When a victim is able to obtain a judgment against this type of organization, they stand a much better chance of actually collecting something against the judgment.
Who are the Boy Scouts Sexual Abusers?
Anyone who spends time alone with young members of the Boy Scouts could be a suspect, however, the Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters who work directly with the Scouts are usually the perpetrators.
The Scoutmaster is an adult employee of the Boy Scouts of America and is responsible for supervising, supporting, and coaching the children. The three roles of the Scoutmaster include:
- Aiding the Junior Leaders in running the troop
- See to it that all Boy Scouts of America rules and regulations are followed
- Being a good example for the Scouts as a mentor and role model
Scoutmasters accused of sexual misconduct involving a youth member of the troop are in direct violation of these roles as well as state and federal laws. Victims have every right to pursue a sexual abuse lawsuit against their abusers and the BSA.
Over 200 Come Forward with Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Allegations
Recently, the general public has come to realize the extent of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse that has occurred in the Boy Scouts. Over 200 individuals have made allegations against members of the Boy Scouts of America accusing officials of sexual misconduct and abuse. In part, this growing realization has resulted from the records that the organization kept. Now, in part because of the increasing attention being focused on the issue, new accusers are coming forward with stories of the abuse they allegedly suffered while in the Boy Scouts. Combined with a growing number of lawsuits, this represents a grave threat to the Boy Scouts’ continued financial solvency.
As more information comes out, law firms have been advertising and using other means to find potential plaintiffs. The attention has prompted many new prospective plaintiffs to come forward with their stories of abuse. Not all of these victims are those whose abuse appeared in the Boy Scouts’ internal records. Further, not all of the alleged pedophiles have been documented in the records.
The Boy Scouts’ Legal Issues
The major legal problem for the Boy Scouts is that their own records show that they knew of the issue. However, there is no further proof that the Boy Scouts did anything more than attempt to handle the problem on their own. The records do not indicate whether the suspected or actual abusers were reported to the police, most likely because there was no report made.
Given the focus on large organizations that have had extensive contact with youth, such as the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts are now facing large-scale litigation for their inaction in the face of rampant abuse. In 2010, the Boy Scouts were ordered by a jury to pay $18.5 million to a man who was sexually assaulted by a scoutmaster as a youth. This large amount was assessed as a result of an assault of one minor, and there are now hundreds of reports of abuse.
In addition to the large damage award, the Boy Scouts were also ordered by the court to release internal files that it kept of the alleged abuse. This is where the real existential problem for the organization originated. Several law firms have been given access to these files and have been seeking out potential plaintiffs for a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts. The biggest problem for the youth group is that evidence of what happened is right there on paper for juries to consider.
The Boy Scouts’ Potential Liability
Therein lies the crisis for the Boy Scouts. The scope of their potential legal liability is not known as new abuse cases come to light practically every day. Each one of these cases can result in a large verdict against the organization. It is questionable whether the Boy Scouts will have the financial wherewithal to withstand the coming spate of lawsuits that they will be facing. Unlike the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts have limited financial reserves. There has been speculation that the Boy Scouts may make a preemptive bankruptcy filing. Once the organization goes into receivership, it will not be able to be sued. This is because of the automatic stay that goes into effect upon the bankruptcy filing that freezes things as they were beforehand.
The Boy Scouts’ liability would stem from the fact that the alleged pedophiles acted under its supervision. Oftentimes, when there is abuse, the victims will tend to hold the employer or the organization which the abuser was representing responsible. This is largely due to financial reasons. An employer will be legally responsible for the actions of its employees. This is because the employee is an agent of the employer. Yet the employee does not have the same financial means as the employer to cover a large judgment. While the plaintiff may be successful in winning a judgment against the employee or representative, they may never collect on that verdict.
Negligent Supervision by the Boy Scouts of America
The theory under which a Pennsylvania Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawyer would sue the organization would be negligent supervision. As with any case that involves negligence, this Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawsuit would need to show four elements:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that duty by failing to act as a reasonable person would under the circumstances
- The plaintiff suffered an injury
- The defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the injury
Alternatively, the Boy Scouts could be held liable for the abuse because they failed to provide adequate security for the minors in their care. This is another negligence-based claim.
Evidence of Negligence
In April 2019, University of Virginia professor Janet Warren, who was hired by the BSA to investigate their sexual abuse files found that 12,254 minors were allegedly sexually abused by 7,819 Scoutmasters and Scout leaders.
While the general public has only recently come to know of the scourge of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, the organization itself has long had a detailed understanding of the scope of the problem with sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1940s. Not only did the Boy Scouts know of the problem, but they extensively documented it. The organization kept a database that spanned several decades, including the names of those who were banned from leading or being involved with troupes due to actual or suspected abuse.
A Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawyer in Pennsylvania will use these records in court to show that the Boy Scouts’ failure to act to protect children was not what a reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances. A reasonable person would have both been more stringent about who they allowed to be around children, as well as called the police when there was suspicion of abuse.
These legal theories have already been put to the test in several cases, and the Boy Scouts have already been found legally responsible for the harm that was done to the plaintiffs. Hundreds of additional lawsuits have been filed and litigation threatens to drain the Boy Scouts’ assets.
What Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Victims Can Recover
There are several things that are compensable in a Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawsuit. The foremost damage for which victims can recover is pain and suffering. There is also the possibility of punitive damages against the Boy Scouts given the egregiousness of their actions. Other damages that Boy Scouts sexual abuse victims may recover include:
- Psychological counseling
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
The Boy Scouts rank 45th in Forbes Magazine’s listing of the largest charities with over $800 million in annual revenues. However, the Boy Scouts’ assets will not last long if they face many more verdicts like the large one assessed against them in 2010.
Another development that could be legally devastating for the Boy Scouts is the fact that many states are passing laws that extend the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases. Here, it will mean that the organization can be sued for abuse that occurred years ago. New Jersey is one of the states that recently passed a bill that allows victims to file a sexual abuse lawsuit until the age of 55 or seven years after they learned that they were harmed by the abuse.
Victims need to contact a Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible for several reasons. Even if victims regain the ability to sue, this right does not extend forever and a lawsuit needs to be filed before the new statute of limitations expires.
Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Should Be Filed Soon
Victims must file a Boy Scouts sexual abuse lawsuit before the effects of the multitude of lawsuits drive the Boy Scouts into bankruptcy. While the Boy Scouts have over $1 billion in assets, the total amount of liability that the organization faces is enough to drain the Boy Scouts’ coffers. Once the organization files for bankruptcy, they can no longer be sued because the rules of bankruptcy court prohibit lawsuits against those in bankruptcy. Thus, it is important to file a claim before this happens.
Get Help from a Pennsylvania Boy Scouts Sexual Abuse Attorney
KBA Attorneys have years of combined experience in holding sexual abusers legally responsible for their actions. Even if sexual abuse occurred many years ago, the recent statutory changes mean that victims can still receive financial compensation. Even under the new laws, the timeframe to sue is not unlimited so victims should contact KBA Attorneys as soon as possible to begin the process of filing a claim.
Our sexual abuse lawyers recognize the difficulty that many face when coming forward to recount horrific incidents, and we understand the sensitivity of the situation. While sexual abuse lawsuits are most assuredly difficult from an emotional perspective, they can result in victims finally getting the compensation that they deserve.
Call us or fill out an online form for a free consultation.
- Cara Kelly. “Hundreds of former Boy Scouts reveal new sexual abuse claims, exposing 150 alleged pedophiles,” USA Today, https://www.yahoo.com/news/hundreds-former-boy-scouts-come-090009372.html. Accessed June 6, 2019.
- David Crary. “Boy Scouts could be hit with more sex abuse claims,” Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-boy-scouts-sex-abuse-claims-20190424-story.html. June 13, 2019.
- Wade Goodwyn. “Abuse By Boy Scout Leaders More Widespread Than Earlier Thought”, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2019/04/26/717201092/abuse-by-boy-scout-leaders-more-widespread-than-earlier-thought. June 13, 2019.
- Meghan Keneally and Aaron Katersky. “More than 12,000 Boy Scout members were victims of sexual abuse, expert says”, ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/US/12000-boy-scout-members-victims-sexual-abuse-expert/story?id=62573567. June 13, 2019.
- Corky Siemaszko. “Boy Scouts of America denies it is hiding names of suspected pedophiles in ‘perversion files’”, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/boy-scouts-america-deny-it-hiding-names-suspected-pedophiles-perversion-n998226. June 13, 2019.