Faced with hundreds of lawsuits filed by men who allege that they were sexually abused as children while attending camps, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 18. The Chapter 11 petition is aimed at reaching a global settlement of all of the claims filed against the organization. Because of the pending case, litigation against the national organization is currently on hold. This means that if you are considering filing a lawsuit, you will need to file a claim through the bankruptcy case. The Chapter 11 case will include the establishment of a trust fund from which claimants may be paid. People must act quickly because the deadline for abuse survivors to file claims with the bankruptcy court is on Nov. 16, 2020, at 5 p.m. Anyone who fails to meet that deadline will be barred from recovering compensation.
The “perversion files”
In 2019, a professor at the University of Virginia named Janet Warren testified as an expert witness about the existence of the BSA’s “perversion files.” These are files that the organization has kept going back to 1944 and contained lists of names of people who had been removed from the organization because of sexual assault and abuse claims by boy and cub scouts. Warren testified that the files included the names of 7,819 volunteers who had been removed or banned from the organization between 1944 and 2016 after allegations had been made against them. She also testified that 12,254 scouts had been victimized during that period. It is unclear whether the BSA turned over all of the abuse allegations to law enforcement officers. The existence of these files demonstrates the long history of abuse that has continued within the organization for decades and the need to hold the BSA accountable for its actions.
Potential value of the trust fund
According to the New York Times, the BSA has assets of more than $1 billion. Because of the potentially large number of claims, the trust fund will likely need to contain much more. Local councils own many of the properties, and the BSA is arguing that they are separate entities to try to protect the assets of the local councils. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers are arguing that the local councils are not truly separate and should contribute to the fund. This means that the trust fund could potentially be much more valuable to compensate all of the victims.
Who should file claims?
All people who have been abused within the BSA should file claims before Nov. 16 no matter when the abuse happened or whether it was sexual or physical abuse. People who should file claims include the following:
- Abuse survivors who have filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts
- Abuse victims who have reported abuse by calling the Scouts First Hotline
- Victims who have not reported their abuse or filed lawsuits
- Victims of abuse even when their claims are barred by the statute of limitations
- Victims who have additional claims against the BSA who have received settlements in the past
To file claims, abuse survivors must submit the proof of claim form for sexual abuse survivors. People who were the victims of other types of abuse should file general claims forms. It is important to recognize that the perpetrators do not have to be scoutmasters to file claims. The abuse can also include acts perpetrated by other scouts, camp employees, assistant scoutmasters, instructors, volunteers, or camp directors. Claims should be filed by victims who were abused in related programs, including the Cub Scouts, Sea Scouting, Venturing, and Explorer programs.
The forms are meant to help the court and attorneys to determine whether the claims have legal merit. It is important to answer the questions on the form as best as you can. An attorney at The Lovely Law Firm can help you with completing and submitting your form. Your lawyer can advise you about the types of information and documentation that should be submitted.
Where to find the forms
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, the claims form for sexual abuse survivors is available on the BSA’s restructuring website here. If you are the victim of another type of abuse, the general forms are electronically available here. You can file your form online. If you prefer, you can print and mail it to the following address:
BSA Claims Processing
c/o Omni Agent Solutions
5955 De Soto Ave., Suite 100
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Do you have to have a lawyer to file a proof of claim?
While you are not required to retain a lawyer, consulting with an attorney might help you to understand the process and what to expect. Lawyers can also help you to understand the types of evidence and documentation that might help to support your allegations to make it likelier that they will be found to have legal merit. It can also be difficult for abuse survivors to talk about what happened to them. An attorney can help you to describe your experience effectively on your form.
When you meet with a lawyer, make sure to ask about his or her fee structure, experience, and your level of comfort with the attorney. At The Lovely Law Firm, we offer contingency fee arrangements, which means that you will not have to pay our legal fees unless we help you to recover compensation. We also are experienced in handling sexual abuse claims.
Why people should file claims even if the abuse happened long ago
Some people hesitate to file claims because they think that it is too late. Even if your abuse happened a long time ago, you should file your claims form before the deadline so that you can preserve your rights. Several states have look-back periods that lift the limitations periods for sexual abuse claims. More states might open windows as the case proceeds.
Potential compensation from the BSA
The amount of compensation that you might receive by filing a sexual assault claims form will depend on the BSA’s assets, whether the local councils are forced to contribute to the fund and are included in the Chapter 11 proceeding, the organization’s other debts, and whether the organization’s survival will be impacted by the claims.
Compensation in the BSA’s Chapter 11 proceeding will likely be contentious and complex. The organization is trying to prevent the assets of a couple of hundred local councils from being included in the trust fund that will be established for abuse survivors.
The BSA has proposed a reorganization plan that would treat the local councils as protected parties that would not be liable for claims filed against the BSA. However, victims’ lawyers are fighting against that attempt since the majority of the organization’s assets are held by the local councils.
Are the claims confidential?
People who are concerned about confidentiality should know that the general public will not be able to access their claims. Your claim needs to be filed as previously described electronically or by mail. The information that you provide will be considered to be confidential unless you decide to disclose it.
Contact The Lovely Law Firm
If you were the victim of abuse while scouting, you need to file your proof of claim quickly before the deadline. The attorneys at The Lovely Law Firm can help you with completing and filing your forms and can guide you through the process. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation by calling us at 843.839.4111.