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Since 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has operated under a single mission: “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes…” Unfortunately, the efficacy of this guiding principle has come into question in light of hundreds of lawsuits stemming from the sexual abuse of countless scouts. Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of scouts in all 50 states going back as far as the mid-1960s, demonstrating a pattern of systemic abuse among local councils and systemic negligence on the part of the national organization.
However, this problem has not gone unacknowledged by BSA officials. In the 1980s, the BSA’s highest-ranking executive was quoted as saying, “That’s been an issue since the Boy Scouts began.” Yet little has been done to curb the pattern of hiring abusers to lead scout troops. Several scouting programs have come under fire for hiring repeat offenders for leadership positions.
These issues all came to a head in early 2020, when the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, effectively suspending all civil litigation against the organization. According to a statement released soon after the filing was announced, BSA chose to pursue bankruptcy to adequately compensate victims of sexual abuse and maintain its ability to continue its charitable mission. However, critics of this decision have described the move as an act of self-preservation.
In any case, victims now face further constraints regarding their ability to file a lawsuit against BSA for the abuse they endured. Below are answers to some common questions victims or their families might have in light of the organization’s bankruptcy filing.
Yes. The judge assigned to the BSA Chapter 11 bankruptcy case has set a proof-of-claim deadline for November 16, 2020. This means any current or former scouts seeking compensation for their injuries must submit an official claim form detailing a claimant’s right to pursue the debtor’s assets. Once submitted, a decision will be sent to the filer, notifying them whether their claim was accepted or rejected.
If an abuse victim fails to file a proof of claim by the above deadline, he may never have another opportunity to pursue justice for the abuse he received. If further abuse cases emerge after the filing deadline, those victims may have a right to file an individual lawsuit. A licensed bankruptcy attorney can ensure a client’s proof of claim is submitted on time and pursue the most favorable outcomes on his behalf.
Any current or former Boy Scouts who have suffered sexual abuse by a troop leader, scoutmaster, or BSA volunteer before November 16, 2020, are potentially eligible to participate in settlement distributions. That decision will ultimately be made by an independent trustee tasked with determining the validity of claims and disseminating settlement funds according to the severity of injuries endured by the claimants.
Not every abuse victim will receive an equal portion of the settlement. However, this process was designed to compensate more individual survivors by reducing the cost of case-by-case litigation. So, while some survivors of abuse might receive more money than others, more current and former scouts should theoretically be able to have a slice of the pie. A trusted bankruptcy lawyer can fight for greater compensation for the abuses endured by individual survivors.
According to a press release issued in tandem with its bankruptcy announcement, local Boy Scout councils and troops will remain largely unaffected by the Chapter 11 proceeding, as each operates as an independent, standalone unit. Current scouts and scouting enthusiasts can rest easy knowing local chapters will be able to continue the scouting tradition far into the future.
Minnesota BSA abuse victims seeking restitution for their injuries must file their proof-of-claim form by November 16, 2020. While the document itself is a relatively straightforward three-part form, claimants may be required to provide supporting documentation to determine the validity of their claims. It is advisable that those wishing to file a claim first consult with a licensed personal injury attorney with a track record of successfully litigating sexual assault cases.
He or she will be able to help Minnesota BSA abuse clients navigate the frequently complex filing process and suggest ways individual claims might be strengthened. Claimants should seek out reputable law firms that offer free case reviews or consultations. These serve as risk-free opportunities for abuse victims to discover the legal options available to them.
At Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, not only do our attorneys offer free consultations but we also proudly serve Minnesota Boy Scout abuse victims on a contingency basis. This means clients will not pay unless they receive compensation in the bankruptcy action. If we successfully litigate an abuse case, our fees and case costs are taken out of the settlement distribution, meaning BSA abuse clients will never risk their financial well-being to retain powerful legal representation.
Abuse survivors seeking a risk-free opportunity to explore their legal options are encouraged to request a free consultation with one of our compassionate, local attorneys. Call our office at 1-855-NICOLET or use our confidential contact form to reach a dedicated attorney today.