By Kim Christensen Los Angeles Times (TNS) Feb 18, 2020
The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s oldest and largest youth organizations, filed for bankruptcy protection late Monday as legal claims by former Scouts of past sexual abuse continue to mount.
The Scouts’ Chapter 11 petition, filed in Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, comes amid declining membership and a wave of new sex-abuse lawsuits after several states, including California, New York and New Jersey, recently expanded legal options for childhood victims to sue.
California’s law, AB 218, took effect in January and, among other provisions, opens a three-year “lookback window” for victims to sue for damages on claims previously barred by statutes of limitation. It also relaxes age restrictions on filing claims, giving victims until age 40 or five years after they become aware of injury caused by abuse.
Scouts officials will not say how many abuse lawsuits have been filed in recent years or how much has been paid out in settlements and judgments. Plaintiffs attorneys say the lawsuits number well into the hundreds and that many others settled with confidential agreements before they were filed.
Some of the Scouts’ insurers have refused to cover the payouts, contending that the 110-year-old organization could have prevented the abuse that led to the claims, court records show.
The Scouts’ bankruptcy is not likely to affect local Scouting activities but will halt ongoing lawsuits while settlements are negotiated. It also will require new abuse claims to be handled in that venue rather than in state courts.
Gilion Dumas, a Portland, Ore., attorney who has more than a dozen lawsuits pending against the Scouts in California, said the automatic stay on litigation will plunge her clients into legal limbo. Those who have filed lawsuits will join the ranks of other creditors, which could delay resolution of their claims for years, Dumas said.
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