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A scout leader looks out over a field of uniformed children

In February 2020, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for bankruptcy, stating it would use the Chapter 11 process to create a trust to compensate victims of child sexual abuse.

After filing for bankruptcy, the Boy Scouts proposed an October 2020 deadline for victims to file claims, but attorneys representing abuse victims objected, arguing that a Dec. 31, 2020 deadline would be more appropriate. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the parties eventually agreed to a Nov. 16, 2020 deadline.

Victims may now have a choice: file their claims by the deadline, or wait and see if they are able to sue their local councils.

Sexual Abuse Victims Encouraged to File by the Deadline

The Boy Scouts originally sought bankruptcy protection largely in reaction to the rising number of sexual abuse lawsuits filed in courts around the country. As part of its bankruptcy case, the organization obtained an injunction halting lawsuits against its 261 local councils, which it considers to be legally separate entities. The organization likely hopes that the bankruptcy filing will continue to shield the assets of its local councils.

The BSA is required to run a nearly $7 million awareness campaign encouraging victims to come forward. It will include national television and print ads, as well as mailed letters and emails to those who have already filed complaints.

The BSA has stated that it is committed to compensating victims and that the November deadline “sets a clear timeline for victims to come forward and later seek compensation from the BSA’s proposed compensation trust.”

Survivors seeking compensation from the trust have to file a proof-of-claim form that includes details of the abuse, such as when and where it occurred. The form is available for download at the BSA website. Those who don’t meet the deadline to file claims against the BSA will be barred from filing suit against the national organization in the future.

Victims Who Wait to Sue Local Councils May Lose

Victims who decide to opt-out of the Boy Scouts compensation fund may file individual lawsuits against their local councils after the deadline, but it’s unclear how those cases may turn out. The local councils may defend themselves by deflecting blame to the national organization. That would leave victims with nowhere to go, since the BSA cannot be included in suits after the November 16th deadline, due to bankruptcy protection.

Several victims have already filed suit against their local councils, however, after states passed laws granting look-back windows expanding statutes of limitations for adults sexually abused as children. These cases are continuing to move forward.

According to Boy Scout records, more than 12,000 children were molested by nearly 8,000 abusers since the 1920s. Most of the recently filed cases report on incidents that occurred in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, before the organization required criminal background checks.

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