In an effort to pressure councils nationwide to pay a big share of an eventual settlement in the Scouts’ bankruptcy proceedings, nine new sex abuse lawsuits were filed against three local Boy Scout councils on Tuesday in New York.
The lawsuits were filed soon after coronavirus lockdown rules were eased in some parts of New York and courts in these jurisdictions were allowed to resume their handling of civil claims.
Mike Pfau, whose Seattle-based law firm is involved in coordinating the filing of these lawsuits, says that he anticipates filing many more claims in other parts of New York, as well as in New Jersey and California, once the courts in these states have fully reopened. Two other firms said that they have similar plans and indicated that there could be hundreds of these types of lawsuits once they are allowed to file them.
The judge in the Boys Scouts bankruptcy case issued an injunction through June 8, that blocks lawyers from proceeding with lawsuits against local Boy Scout councils. But several lawyers are saying that they will try to get the injunction to be lifted unless the councils’ disclose their financial information and agree to contribute the asked for amounts into a proposed victim compensation fund.
One of the lawyers in the case, Stephen Crew said that, “The local councils are required to make substantial contributions,” and, “If they don’t, the plan won’t be approved.”
With the onslaught of sexual abuse cases against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in the past few decades, the non-profit organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past February. Recent changes in state laws now allow people to sue over sexual abuse that happened much longer ago than than the more typical statutes of limitations for personal injury claims.
At a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, proceedings are underway in an attempt to create a compensation fund for thousands of men that were molested by scoutmasters or other leaders in the Boy Scouts organization, when they were children and teens decades ago.
When the BSA filed for bankruptcy, it said that the 261 local councils are completely separate entities and should not be included as debtors in the case. The local councils have their own extensive property holdings and other assets completely independent of the large BSA organization and BSA claims it would be unfair to include these holdings and assets.
These recent lawsuits allege abuse that happened decades ago in local councils in upstate New York that are now identified as the Leatherstocking Council, the Baden-Powell Council and the Seneca Waterways Council. (The names and configurations of these counsels are different than how they were organized at the time of the alleged abuses.) The leaders of these councils declined to comment on these most recent lawsuits but two of them referred inquiries intothem over to the BSA headquarters. BSA headquarters issued a statement reiterating previous statements they have made, that they have a goal of fairly compensating abuse survivors while preserving the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.