By Larry McShane
The Boys Scouts of America were not prepared for this.
Nearly 90,000 sexual abuse claims were lodged against the 110-year-old organization before a Monday deadline for filings in the BSA’s bankruptcy case.
“The number of claims is mind-boggling,” said attorney Paul Mones, who won a $19.9 million Oregan lawsuit against the Scouts a decade ago. “It’s chilling in the amount of horror that was experienced.”
The majority of the pending claims date back decades, with plaintiffs alleging abuse in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s before the BSA — with its motto of ‘Be prepared’ — began requiring the presence of two adults leaders at all scouting activities in 1987.
“We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” said a statement from the Scouts. “We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.”
Under terms of the case, no additional claims can be brought against the BSA now that the deadline has passed. But the staggering number of claimants surpassed the projections of lawyers taking on clients in the process.
A compensation fund will now be created to pay settlements to those abuse survivors whose claims are deemed legitimate. The size of the fund remains unknown, and will likely involve lengthy negotiations. Among the groups contributing to the payoff pool are the national BSA, its insurers, the Scouts’ 260 local councils and insurance companies from years past.
The Scouts sought bankruptcy protection this past February as the lawsuits piled up, and the number of claims increased after the BSA — under the guidance of a judge — started a national advertising campaign on Aug. 31 to spread word of the coming deadline.
“They spent millions trying to encourage people to come forward,” said attorney Andrew Van Arsdale, whose Abused in Scouting organization represents some 16,000 victims. “Now the question is whether they can make good on their commitment.”
The BSA membership, once above 4 million, has dropped to less than half that number.
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