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Boy Scouts sexual abuse claims top 92,000 amid bankruptcy

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will face more than 92,700 complaints of sexual abuse in a historic bankruptcy that could reshape the future of one of the oldest and largest youth organizations in the country, lawyers in the case said Monday, when the complaint period.

The number of claims and the total payments to settle them will easily dwarf those in the sex abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church in the United States more than a decade ago, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs. “This is a staggering number of cases, even beyond what I thought existed,” remarked Paul Mones, a Los Angeles lawyer who won a $ 20 million judgment against the Scouts in 2010 and represents several hundred prosecutors in the bankruptcy. “The scope of this is something I could never have imagined.”

The 110-year-old Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last February as it faced a wave of new sexual abuse lawsuits after several states, including California, New York and New Jersey, expanded legal options for child victims to file claims.

The bankruptcy suspended hundreds of lawsuits to allow negotiation of a possible global settlement. It also required that new abuse claims be handled there, rather than in state courts.

The Bankruptcy Court set this past Monday as the “deadline” for filing complaints, which caused a sea of ​​TV and internet advertisements from law firms looking for potential clients and a wave of claims in recent months .

In a statement issued the same day, the organization called the massive response from abuse survivors “heartbreaking.” “We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting, and moved by the courage of those who have spoken,” said the entity. “We are heartbroken because we cannot reverse their pain … We are deeply sorry.”

The Boy Scouts ran their own public campaign this fall, encouraging victims to seek compensation from a trust fund they will establish.

An investigator hired by the Scouts to analyze their internal records last year identified 7,819 alleged abusers and 12,254 victims, a fraction of the number who now filed complaints.

A coalition of law firms calling themselves Abused in Scouting now represents 16,500 claimants, said Andrew Van Arsdale, a San Diego attorney involved with the group. “BSA was very effective in getting the message out to men who suffered as children in its care,” he added. “The question remains whether the BSA will keep its word to improve the tens of thousands of lives they altered. The entity already failed them once when they were minors; we hope they won’t do it again now ”.

All claims will be examined by “external advisers” while the national entity develops a reorganization plan and establishes its compensation fund, the Scouts said Monday, promising to work as “quickly as possible.” The size of the victim fund has yet to be determined, along with the amount to be borne by the BSA or its insurers. Some of these companies refused to cover payments in sexual abuse cases, claiming that the organization could have prevented the conduct that led to the claims, court records show.

At the time of bankruptcy, the national organization had assets of more than a billion dollars. Local Boy Scout councils own billions more in real estate and other assets, but it’s unclear how much they will contribute to the compensation fund. “All of that is now being negotiated between the Boy Scouts and the committee of creditors and other claimants and insurers,” added Mones, who sits on the Bankruptcy Court committee representing victims.

“We are not even close to knowing what the final number will be, or even what are the criteria under which claims will be assessed,” he said. “It will most likely include the severity of the abuse and for how long it occurred.”

There is no question, Mones said, that the Scout payments will dwarf those made by the Catholic Church, including the 2007 Archdiocese of Los Angeles settlement of $ 660 million, which involved more than 500 victims. “It has to be in the billions,” he said, but “nobody knows how much money is being talked about.”

Lawsuits against the Scouts numbered in the hundreds at the time of bankruptcy, but the organization never disclosed how often it was sued or how much it paid in settlements and judgments.

Many of the lawsuits stemmed from the Los Angeles Times publication, in 2012, of internal BSA records involving some 5,000 men on a blacklist known as the “perversion files,” a very well-kept document chest. kept detailing allegations of sexual abuse against troop leaders and others, dating back a century.

In its year-long examination of the files, The Times documented hundreds of cases in which the Boy Scouts failed to report allegations to authorities, withheld them from parents and the public, or urged admitted abusers to quietly resign and then they covered their tracks with false reasons for their departure.

The accusers cited the records, formally known for decades as the “ineligible volunteer files” and now the ‘Volunteer Screening Base’, as evidence that the organization knew about pedophiles in its ranks, but failed to protect children.

Mones used about 1,200 of the files in a Portland, Oregon trial to win a $ 19.9 million verdict against the Scouts in 2010 on behalf of a man who was sexually abused as a minor in the 1980s.

Mones and others have long insisted that the files reflect only a fraction of the abuse that occurred in the area. He noted that the Boy Scouts of America has unusual congressional statute, and urged lawmakers to investigate the extent of the abuse indicated by the spate of complaints. The LA attorney predicted that the Boy Scouts of America post-bankruptcy would be “a smaller version” of an organization that was already experiencing a decline in membership. It is also possible, he added, that the very American image of the entity suffers.

“The scope of the problem here will definitely change Norman Rockwell’s painting image of the Boy Scouts,” Mones said. “I no longer believe that people can see all those good traditional values ​​in the Boy Scouts.”

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