Boy Scouts of America Bankruptcy
On February 18, 2020, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of lawsuits brought by survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including almost 100 lawsuits that we filed against the Boy Scouts in New York. In 2019 and 2020 we likely filed more lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America than any other lawyer or law firm in the country. This page provides important information about claims against the Boy Scouts, including important information about the bankruptcy and the need for abuse survivors to protect their legal rights against all entities who may be liable for their abuse, not just the Boy Scouts of America (national).
Can I Still File a Claim? The Child Victims Act gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse in New York a two year “window” to file a claim for the abuse they suffered regardless of their current age. That window closed in mid-August 2021. We do not know if the New York Assembly will re-open the window, but it still may be possible for some abuse survivors to pursue their claim. Please contact us to learn your options, including the possibility of trying resolve your claim without litigation.
Boy Scout Survivors — Legal Claims Against Local Councils and Sponsoring Orgs: Many abuse survivors in New York were unaware that they had separate legal claims against the local council and/or chartering organization that was responsible for their Scouting unit. More importantly, many abuse survivors did not realize, and were not informed by their lawyers, that they likely needed to take steps to protect their legal rights against those entities because filing a claim in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy may not have protected those rights. If you were not informed of your rights as to a local council or sponsoring organization, or if those rights were not protected, please contact us so we can discuss your options.
Choose a Law Firm Who Will Protect *All* of Your Rights: Many people who were abused by a Scout leader, or as a result of the Scouting program, have separate legal claims against three different entities: the national Boy Scouts of America, the “local council” of the Boy Scouts who oversaw their Scouting unit, and the “sponsoring organization” that sponsored or chartered their Scouting unit (usually a church, school, or other youth-serving organization). Although the Boy Scouts (national) knew for decades that men were using their positions as Scout leaders or volunteers to groom and to sexually abuse children, the local councils and sponsoring organizations were most often the ones who received complaints about a specific Scout leader and ignored them, or saw “red flags” about a Scout leader and ignored them. Those entities are just as responsible, if not more responsible, than the national Boy Scouts. Many of them, like the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church, were well aware of the danger of child sexual abuse because of their own problems with their leaders and members abusing children.
The national Boy Scouts of America is the entity that filed for bankruptcy, but the local councils and the sponsoring organizations are currently *not* a part of the Boy Scout bankruptcy. This means many people need to take separate legal action to protect their claims against the local councils and sponsoring organizations who may be responsible for their abuse because those claims may *not* be compensated in the bankruptcy.
If you are looking for an attorney, or already have an attorney, make sure you ask about all of your legal rights, make sure the attorney agrees to protect all of your rights, and make sure the attorney agrees to investigate and pursue any claim you may have for the abuse you suffered. Obviously you must be the one who decides which claim(s) you want to pursue, but you deserve an attorney who will explain all of your legal options so you can make an informed decision.
As with hiring any professional, we recommend you interview multiple law firms, read the “fine print” of their contracts, and confirm in writing that they will protect all of your legal rights and pursue all of your legal claims if that is what you want them to do. If a law firm is only willing to help you in the bankruptcy, or suggests you don’t need to worry about any claim you may have against a local council or sponsoring organization, you may want to consider a different law firm. Please remember that almost any claim you have is governed by a statute of limitations — if a lawyer assumes all of your claims will be covered by the bankruptcy, and the lawyer is wrong, the statute of limitations may expire on your legal claims and you will lose your right to pursue those claims.
We will not comment on the practices of other other law firms other than to note that some firms have been accused of false and misleading advertising in their quest to sign up hundreds or thousands of clients, including failing to adequately inform their own clients of all of their legal rights. While we want all abuse survivors to be aware of the bankruptcy, we also want to make sure people are not misled about the bankruptcy, that they understand all of their legal rights, and that they choose which claims they want to pursue. A lawyer should not make that decision for their clients, and a lawyer should make sure their clients understand all of their rights so the client can choose which claims they want to pursue (or not pursue).
The Boy Scouts’ Latest Proposal Raises Serious Concerns for Abuse Survivors: On July 1, 2021, the Boy Scouts announced a new proposal that would allow the Boy Scouts and their local councils to pay around $850 million to approximately 82,500 abuse survivors. While $850 million may sound like a lot of money, such a settlement would result in abuse survivors receiving an average of around $10,000 from the Boy Scouts and their local councils. Such compensation would be on the low end of how much has been paid in prior sexual abuse bankruptcies, if not the lowest by a wide margin. Moreover, the Boy Scouts recently disclosed that the local councils have more than $1.8 billion in unrestricted net assets that could be available to pay abuse survivors, but the councils are collectively paying just $600 million.
If you filed a claim in the Boy Scout bankruptcy, and if you are represented by an attorney, please ask the attorney if they support this proposal, and if so, why they support it. We and other law firms are going to demand that the Boy Scouts be transparent and tell abuse survivors how much each council is contributing, and if they are not contributing all of their unrestricted net assets, why not. Abuse survivors deserve to know this very basic information before they decide whether to vote “yes” or “no” regarding this latest proposal. If your attorney has questions, please ask them to contact us.
Our Objection to the BSA’s “Disclosure Statement”: Under bankruptcy law, the Boy Scouts are required to tell abuse survivors how their legal claims will be affected by their bankruptcy. After reading this “disclosure statement,” abuse survivors are supposed to be able to decide whether they want to vote for or against the Boy Scouts’ plan for emerging from bankruptcy. On May 6, 2021, we filed an objection to the Boy Scouts’ disclosure statement because it fails to provide abuse survivors even the most basic information they need to know in order to decide how to vote. For example, the disclosure statement fails to disclose how much each New York local council is contributing to the bankruptcy so an abuse survivor with a claim against a New York council can decide whether that council is contributing a fair amount of money in order to be a part of the bankruptcy. The Boy Scouts also fail to disclose any details regarding the $650 million settlement they reached with the Hartford insurance company, which we believe is a small fraction of what Hartford should be paying (it works out to an average of $7,000 per abuse survivors). You can read our objection by clicking here (clicking the link will open a new browser window with the PDF document).
Boy Scout Claim Numbers in New York: On March 11, 2021, the “Tort Claimants Committee,” which is a committee of abuse survivors appointed by the bankruptcy court to represent the interests of all abuse survivors, published a report that details the approximate number of claims filed in each state, the number of claims filed against each local council, and the number of claims filed against each chartering organization. You can read the full report by clicking here (clicking this link will open a new browser window with the TCC’s report).
While much attention has been paid to the 85,000+ claims that were filed nationwide, the TCC’s report reflects that approximately 5,178 claims have been filed that allege abuse in New York. The report notes that these numbers are likely low because approximately 7,186 claims did not provide a location of abuse. The TCC’s report illustrates the exposure faced by the local councils in New York, and why every abuse survivor must demand that these councils disclose how much they are going to contribute to the bankruptcy if they want to settle the claims they are facing:
Greater New York Council: 1,304 claims
Seneca Waterways Council: 224
Greater Niagara Frontier Council: 219
Twin Rivers Council: 201
Westchester-Putnam Council: 192
Suffolk County Council: 185
Theodore Roosevelt Council: 175
Longhouse Council: 158
Hudson Valley Council: 131
Leatherstocking Council: 97
Baden-Powell Council: 93
Allegheny Highlands Council: 68
Five Rivers Council: 67
Iroquois Trail Council: 41
Rip Van Winkle Council: 17
The report notes that these claim numbers will likely increase, possibly by significant amounts, because roughly 39,177 claimants did not identify a local council in their claim form.
Bankruptcy Deadline / Learn Your Legal Rights: The bankruptcy court set a November 2020 deadline for abuse survivors to file a claim in the bankruptcy regarding the Boy Scouts of America (national). HOWEVER, you may still be able to pursue justice even if you missed that deadline because that deadline did NOT apply to the Boy Scout local councils or the “chartering organizations” who sponsored individual Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. However, if you have a claim under New York law, you likely need to file a lawsuit before mid-August 2021 to protect these claims under the statute of limitations. Please contact us to learn your legal options and to ensure your legal rights are protected.
Interviews Regarding the Boy Scouts Bankruptcy: Some of our clients have decided to speak out regarding the Boy Scouts bankruptcy and what it means to them. Our lawyers have also been featured in a number of news stories about the bankruptcy because of our long history of helping Boy Scout abuse survivors and our work in a large number of the Catholic bankruptcies. You can read or watch some of the stories by clicking on the links below:
- “Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy. Hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits are now on hold” (CNN)
- “Boy Scouts seek bankruptcy, urge victims to step forward” (AP)
- “Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits” (CBS)
- “Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy after sex abuse lawsuits” (Fox News)
- “Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy amid wave of potential lawsuits” (Washington Post)
- “Why the Boy Scouts Are Bankrupt and What It Means For Families” (Yahoo News)
First Lawsuits Filed Against the Boy Scouts and Its Local Councils: On August 14, 2019, our clients across New York filed some of the first lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America and its local councils under the Child Victims Act.
New York County: Diaz et al. v. Boy Scouts of America and Greater New York Councils
Westchester County: D.W. v. Boy Scouts of America and Westchester-Putnman Council
Onondaga County: Bleau v. Boy Scouts of America and Longhouse Council
New York “Ineligible Volunteer” / “Perversion” Files
At the bottom of this page you will find links to the files for Boy Scout leaders in New York who the Boy Scouts deemed “ineligible” to volunteer because they believed the Scout leader posed a danger to children. Some of our lawyers obtained these files almost twenty years ago, so please know that any report claiming the files are “new” is inaccurate. Please also know that the files are incomplete — the Boy Scouts have not released their files for many years, and they had a policy of destroying files once the person was deceased. We have represented many people who were abused by Boy Scout leaders who are not in the files, so do not be discouraged if you were abused by someone who is not in the files.
History of the “Ineligible” Volunteer Files
Starting in the early 1900s, the Boy Scouts of America maintained a file system that became known as the “ineligible volunteer” files. The files contained a list of the names of adults who the Boy Scouts deemed ineligible to volunteer in Scouting for a variety of reasons, including child sexual abuse. In 1935, the then Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts, Dr. James E. West, told the New York Times that the list contained 2,919 names and that “a proportion represents men who are morally unfit.” West noted that the Boy Scouts “still have those who seek to enter Scouting and contact boys who are unbalanced morally” and others who “undertake to deal with sex matters and become morbid on the subject and sometimes give way to temptation and develop practices which make them degenerates.”
In the New York Times article, Dr. West explained that “degenerate types” represented about 30% of the 2,919 files, or almost 1,000 individual Scout leaders. West claimed Scout leaders who were removed for “defects of a moral nature” were not considered for leadership jobs or any Scout position.
After 1935, little was reported on the existence or content of the ineligible volunteer files until 2012, when a judge ordered the public release of the files. Those files show that between 1960 and 1992, the Boy Scouts created approximately 153 files for Scout leaders across New York. Between 1992 and 2004, the Boy Scouts are believed to have added more than 200 new names from New York to its list of “ineligible volunteers,” but the files on those individuals have not been released to the public.
The Boy Scouts tried to keep this list of names secret for many years. For example, we have an internal Boy Scout memo about the files where the Scout executive in charge of the files asked other Scout executives to keep the letter confidential because of “the misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed.” He instructed them to avoid sharing it “beyond the top management of your council.”
Below is the list of names for the 153 Scout leaders in the ineligible volunteer files who were associated with a troop in New York. You can click on the person’s name and it will take you to a page with more information on the person and some or all of the file that the Boy Scouts maintained on the individual. Again, please do not be discouraged if the Boy Scout leader who abused you is not listed below as there are likely 100s of Scout leaders who abused children who are not on this list.
If you were abused by a Boy Scout leader or volunteer, even if it was decades ago, please contact an attorney to learn your legal options. The time to act is now as the time to file a claim under the Child Victims Act is limited.