Sexual Abuse Claims Deadline Set for Boy Scouts Amid Bankruptcy
A Delaware bankruptcy judge granted the Boy Scouts of America permission to adopt a bar date of November 16 for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file claims against the organization. The November 16 date can be viewed as a compromise. The Boy Scouts organization proposed an October 6 deadline, which was met with objection by attorneys for the official committee representing the abuse victims who argued that survivors should have at least until December 31 to file claims in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorneys for the victims committee submitted court filings indicating, “At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed and preoccupied with basic survival, sexual abuse survivors need and are entitled to a reasonable period of time after they receive notice from the bankruptcy Court to reflect seriously and make a decision whether to file a claim in this case.”
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, Laurie Selber Silverstein, approved the November date as a deadline for the filing of sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts during a hearing conducted via telephone and video conference. Silverstein also ruled on a dispute concerning how claims would be filed.
Upon hearing from the committee representing tort claimants regarding concerns with requiring survivors to relive their abuse through a longer proof of claim form, Silverstein permitted the Boy Scouts to distribute the form provided responses to those questions would be optional.
“I agree that the narrative should express that it is optional in some fashion,” Judge Silverstein said during Monday’s court proceedings. “Whether it’s ‘if you wish to do this’ or ‘please further describe,’ it should be something that suggests additional information is welcome.”
The Associated Press reported that the claimant notification program is expected to reach more than 100 million people, including more than 95% of the primary target audience of men 50 and older, according to Jessica Boelter, an attorney for the Boy Scouts. The AP also confirmed an expert for the Boy Scouts estimated that men in that age group account for more than half of former Boy Scouts and at least 71% of abuse survivors with pending claims against the organization.
The Boy Scouts sought bankruptcy protection in February after facing over $150 million in outstanding settlements with alleged sex abuse victims. The bankruptcy filing was viewed as an attempt to restructure the numerous sex abuse settlements through a mass tort compensation system. At the time of the Chapter 11 filing approximately 275 lawsuits pertaining to alleged sexual abuse crimes against the Boy Scouts were ongoing throughout various state and federal courts, with an additional 1,400 potential cases pending. More than 12,000 boys have been molested by 7,800 abusers since the 1920s, according to Boy Scout files revealed in court papers.
In conjunction with the bankruptcy case, the Associated Press also reported that the Boy Scouts obtained an injunction halting lawsuits against the organization’s 261 local councils as “related parties.” The local councils, which run day-to-day operations for local troops, are not listed as debtors in the bankruptcy and are considered by the Boy Scouts to be legally separate entities. Attorneys for abuse victims have indicated that they will try to go after campsites and other properties owned by the local councils to contribute to the victims fund.
The injunction does not prevent any litigation against individual alleged abusers from proceeding, nor does it prevent the filing of complaints against entities related to the Boy Scouts while the stay is in place.