Following a wave of sexual abuse allegations, The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware Tuesday morning, The Guardian reports. The BSA faces colossal costs related to long-running sexual abuse allegations, as lawyers attempt to secure settlements for thousands of men who claimed to have been molested as scouts by scoutmasters decades ago when they were children. Presumably, a single lump bankruptcy settlement will result in slimmer costs to the BSA and lower payments to survivors.
Because of changes in the states’ statute-of-limitations laws, Boy Scout victims are allowed to pursue justice: In August 2019, for example, New Yorkers blocked by an expired statute of limitations were given window of renewed legal recourse through the recently enacted Child Victims Act. The law allows adult survivors a one-year period to sue an abuser or a negligent institution regardless of when the assault took place. Previously, childhood sexual abuse victims only had until their 23rd birthday to file civil suits, and now they have up until age 55.
Last month, eight men who claimed to have been abused as children by leaders in the Boy Scouts sued the organization in Washington, D.C., The New York Times reported. They alleged their abuse took place across Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, Florida and Texas, beginning in the ‘90s. In August 2019, a group of lawyers called Abused in Scouting filed a similar suit in Philadelphia. Before that, in April 2019, a report revealed that nearly 8,000 boy scout leaders have been accused of sexual abuse since 1944. As changes to individual states’ statute-of-limitations laws continue to be enforced, it’s likely that more will come forward.
However, by going to bankruptcy court, the Boy Scouts of America is able to put those lawsuits on hold to figure out its next move, according to The Guardian. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts, Evan Roberts, offered the following statement:
“Scouting programs will continue throughout this process and for many years to come. Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy because they are legally separate and distinct organizations.”
The Catholic Church, another institution effected by changes to statute-of-limitations laws, has been pursuing a similar strategy to limit payouts to victims. By filing for bankruptcy and halting the lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America has given itself a window to negotiate with victims, presumably with the aim of rolling all claims into a single, final resolution, as Slate points out.
“I want you to know that we believe you, we believe in compensating you, and we have programs in place to pay for counseling for you and your family,” Jim Turley, the national chair of Boy Scouts of America, said after the bankruptcy filing.
Paul Mones, attorney for many BSA defendants told The Guardian, “There are a lot of very angry, resentful men out there who will not allow the Boy Scouts to get away without saying what all their assets are. They want no stone unturned.”