Boy Scouts Ordered To Pay $7 Million

December 17, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

A jury in Connecticut has ordered the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), based in Irving, Texas, to pay $7 million to a victim of sexual abuse. The plaintiff, known as John Doe in court documents, was abused several times by an assistant scoutmaster during the mid-1970s.

The BSA was found to be both negligent and reckless in allowing the scoutmaster access to the plaintiff. The jury awarded $4 million due to negligence and $3 million for recklessness. The plaintiff was between 12 and 15 years old, and was assaulted on at least three occasions, according to court documents.

The BSA did not return requests for comment.

Paul Slager, a partner at Silver Golub & Tietell and attorney for the plaintiff, said the BSA was negligent because it kept files, known as an ineligible volunteer file, on suspected pedophiles and others but did not share them with the local council. The recklessness “is a reflection of the nature and extent of the injuries as they plagued (my client) throughout his life,” said Slagel.

The plaintiff sued both the BSA and the local scout council of which he was a member. The jury found that the local council was not liable for damages. “The jury recognized there was an institutional responsibility on the part of the Boy Scouts,” said Slager. He said he conceded at trial that the “overwhelming majority of responsibility” should fall onto the national organization.

Punitive damages will be determined by a judge at a separate hearing that has not yet been scheduled. Connecticut law limits punitive damages to attorney fees and court costs, according to Slager.

Slager said the judgment was the largest amount against the BSA. But it’s not all about the money, he said. “I think there’s a real risk when there are reports on lawsuits and jury verdicts when they’re couched in terms of professional accomplishments. The amount is not significant for that reason. It’s significant because it’s the result of a very, very courageous person who suffered a very, very terrible experience, an experience shaped by the negligence and recklessness of the BSA,” said Slager.

The BSA did not return requests for comment.