Approximately 60,000 men who claimed that they were sexually abused decades ago, while members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), reached an $850 million settlement agreement with BSA yesterday.
The settlement, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, was made between the BSA and the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice and two other groups representing sexual abuse victims.
Nearly 100,000 men claim they were abused as boy scouts. Due to the mounting financial strain of defending tens of thousands of lawsuits, in February, 2020, BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Under Chapter 11 protection, the BSA reorganized and established a victims’ compensation fund.
The settlement could pave the way for BSA, a 111 year-old non-profit, to emerge from Chapter 11 protection, Reuters news agency reported.
In a statement, the BSA said, per Reuters reporting: “Bringing these groups together marks a significant milestone … as the BSA works toward our dual imperatives of equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving the mission of scouting.”
Despite the filing, the settlement requires a judge’s approval. Reuters also adds that insurers could mount fierce opposition to the settlement because they would be the entities responsible for doling out the settlement funds.
According to the filing, per Reuters, the insurers AIG, Chubb Ltd, Travelers, and others, claim BSA excluded them from negotiations and gave victims’ lawyers too much of a say in crafting a settlement.
A 2020 report on Time.com says that insurers began refusing to pay out damages in 2018 because of the sheer number of abuse claims. Insurance companies argued that BSA was liable for the abuse because they could have taken steps to prevent it.
The number of BSA sex abuse lawsuits rose dramatically after many states extended statute-of-limitation laws, thereby permitting sex abuse victims to sue despite the fact that the alleged abuse occurred decades earlier. According to Reuters, the settlement covers the national BSA organization but not the local Boy Scouts councils.
For many sex abuse victims, some of whom are now in their 70s, suing the BSA will be their only chance to see the justice system work in their favor, as many of the alleged abusers have died.
In January 2019, in a Minnesota court, a child abuse expert hired by BSA testified that there were over 12,000 reports of sexual abuse committed by nearly 8,000 suspected assailants from 1944 to 2016. However, that number was likely a fraction of the overall cases of sexual abuse, as many victims likely felt too ashamed to report abuse.
It was only after attorneys launched national ad campaigns in 2019 that more people came forward to provide their testimony, which paved the way for this settlement.