At least 82,000 claims of sexual abuse from former scouts of Boy Scouts of America have been filed against the organization as of Sunday.
Claims are still being accepted until Monday at 5pm, according to a spokesperson from the group’s legal team.
BSA filed for bankruptcy protection in February in the face of hundreds of lawsuits. It was originally predicted that the number of people filing claims would surge past 20,000 before the deadline for claims – but that number was drastically surpassed with Sunday’s update of 82,000.
Andrew Van Arsdale, one of the lead attorneys in the case, told
‘Based on what we are hearing from survivors, sexual abuse was a rite of passage in troops across the country, similar to other tasks where children had to … perform certain duties to earn their coveted merit badges,’ he said.
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At least 82,000 claims of sexual abuse from former scouts of Boy Scouts of America (file image) have been filed against the organization as of Sunday. Claims are still being accepted until Monday at 5pm, according to a spokesperson from the group’s legal team
In response to the claims, a spokesperson for Boys Scouts of America said that the organization was ‘devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward’.
‘We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain,’ the spokesperson added.
In September, BSA launched a nationwide advertising campaign to notify victims of decades-old sex abuse by Scout leaders that they have until November 16 to seek compensation from a proposed fund.
The Boy Scouts’ court-approved ad campaign ran through October 17 at an estimated cost of $6.8million.
It included print, television, radio and online ads in English and Spanish that were expected to reach more than 100 million people, including more than 95 per cent of the primary target audience of men 50 and older.
The ads called for alleged victims to file claims regardless of how long ago the abuse took place.
Lawyer Paul Mones, who won a $19.9million sex-abuse verdict against the Boy Scouts in Oregon in 2010, described the campaign as historic.
‘Despite all the publicity surrounding the bankruptcy, this is the first time that the BSA has ever formally and publicly acknowledged on a wide-scale basis its long-standing problem of sexual abuse,’ Mones said.
The bankruptcy has been painful for the 110-year-old Boy Scouts, which has been a pillar of American civic life for generations and a training ground for future leaders.
In response to the claims, a spokesperson for Boys Scouts of America (file image) said that the organization was ‘devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward’
But its finances were already strained by sex-abuse settlements and declining membership — now below 2 million from a peak of over 4 million in the 1970s.
Most of the pending sex-abuse claims date to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted criminal background checks, abuse-prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities.
The potential size of the bankruptcy compensation fund is not yet known. The organization is expected to contribute a substantial portion of its assets, which include financial investments and real estate.
The Boy Scouts’ insurers also will be contributing, although they have been trying to limit their exposure.
Attorney Christopher Hurley of the Chicago-based law firm Hurley McKenna & Mertz, which says it represents more than 2,500 potential claimants, said lawyers are braced for tough negotiations with the insurers.
‘If they’re smart, they’ll find a way to resolve this in a fair way,’ Hurley said. ‘With 100% certainty, we’re not going out anywhere until there’s justice for these survivors.’
Another contentious issue is the extent to which the Boy Scouts’ roughly 260 local councils will contribute to the fund.
In its bankruptcy filing, the national organization said the councils, which have extensive property holdings and other assets, are separate legal entities and should not be included as debtors in the case.
An ad hoc committee representing the councils is negotiating what they will pay in.
‘Any settlement must involve not only BSA but also the local councils and insurance companies,’ said Seattle-based attorney Mike Pfau, whose team represents more than 630 potential claimants.
‘There can be no meaningful settlement without significant contributions from both of them.’