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November 16, 2020

Nearly 90,000 sex abuse claims filed against Boy Scouts of America as part of bankruptcy

Lawsuits Boy Scouts
boy scouts sex abuse John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune, TNS, Sipa USA

Nearly 90,000 sex abuse claims were made against the Boy Scouts of America. The deadline to report claims and be eligible for compensation was Nov. 16.

Nearly 90,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America since it applied for bankruptcy protection in February 

Monday was the deadline to submit claims in the organization's bankruptcy case, NBC Philadelphia reported. The number of cases filed are much higher than the Boy Scouts lawyers had projected at the start of the bankruptcy proceedings.

"We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward," the Boy Scouts said in a statement. "We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain."

The number of claims totaled 88,500 just a few hours before the 5 p.m. deadline, lawyers said.

"More sexual abuse claims will be filed in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy than all claims filed against the Catholic Church throughout the nation," the Torts Claimants Committee said.

Abuse survivors whose claims are upheld will be entitled to a compensation fund created from the proceedings in federal bankruptcy court.

The Boy Scouts of America organization is expected to contribute a substantial portion of its financial investments and real estate to contribute to this compensation. The total sum of it is unknown and will likely be a part of a lengthy negotiation process.  

A network called Abused in Scouting has signed up about 16,000 claimants, the network's lawyer Andrew Van Arsdale said. After the Boy Scouts broadcasted that victims had until Nov. 16 to seek compensation, Van Arsdale said the number doubled.  

"They spent millions trying to encourage people to come forward," Van Arsdale said, according to NBC. "Now, the question is whether they can make good on their commitment."

Van Arsdale said to CNN that sex abuse became the "unspoken norm" in troops across the country.

"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 in a statement.

The Boy Scouts organization said it was intentional in making the process as open and accessible as possible. 

The majority of the pending lawsuits stem from before the organization required criminal background checks, instituted abuse prevention training for scout leaders and implemented a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities.

While the terms of the case state that no claims can be filed against the organization after Monday, attorney Jason Amala said new claims can still be filed against local councils in some states, like New York, New Jersey and California, that have victim-friendly statute-of-limitations laws. 

Lawyer Paul Mones, who won a $19.9 million sex abuse verdict against the organization's Oregon chapter in 2010 said determining which insurers were responsible for coverage of the national organization and the local councils will be a challenge.