‘It’s bigger than all of the Catholic Church cases combined, by a longshot,’ one lawyer says
Close to 90,000 sex abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) — far surpassing the number of claims filed in Catholic Church cases, which is believed to be around 9,000, AP reports. The number of claims — which totaled 82,663 on Sunday night — continues to increase as the organization, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, nears its 5 p.m. ET Monday deadline for victims to come forward and submit their claims in the proceedings.
“It’s the biggest sexual-abuse case by an order of magnitude, anywhere ever,” Tim Kosnoff, a Seattle lawyer whose team represents thousands of BSA claimants nationwide, tells The Seattle Times. “It’s bigger than all of the Catholic Church cases combined, by a longshot.”
“I knew there were a lot of cases. I never contemplated it would be a number close to this,” Paul Mones, a lawyer who has been working on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades, told The New York Times, which also reports that Abused in Scouting, a coalition of attorneys, has clients from all 50 states. And according to CBS, alleged victims range in age from 9 to 95.
When the Boys Scouts organization filed for bankruptcy, hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits were filed across the country by former scouts.
“Based on what we are hearing from survivors, sexual abuse was a rite of passage in troops across the country, similar to other tasks where children had to … perform certain duties to earn their coveted merit badges,” said one of the lead attorneys Andrew Van Arsdale in a prepared statement. Van Arsdale, who has been in communication with thousands of alleged survivors over the past 19 months, also described sex abuse in the BSA an “unspoken norm.”
Because BSA’s bankruptcy filing effectively placed lawsuits on hold, alleged survivors must now pursue their claims in bankruptcy court versus via civil proceedings, CNN reports. This means, that they will lose their right to a jury trial.
“Their lives won’t be scrutinized, but they lose their right to a jury trial,” Michael Pfau, a Seattle-based attorney representing hundreds of alleged victims, told CNN in February. “For a lot of abuse survivors, telling their story in a court of law and forcing the organizations to defend their actions can be cathartic. That won’t happen with a bankruptcy.”
BSA responded to the thousands upon thousands of claims — which detail abuse and assaults at the hands of scout leaders — saying in a prepared statement that they are “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting” and that they are “moved by the bravery of those who have come forward.”
“We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain,” they continued.