Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said the organization will appeal a ruling that could put it on the hook for almost $20 million in damages — and possibly more in the future. A jury ruled that the organization was negligent in a child abuse case dating to the 1980s in Portland, Ore.
A jury awarded $18.5 million in punitive damages to 38-year-old Kerry Lewis, who was sexually abused by a former assistant scoutmaster. There are at least six other cases outstanding. By state law, 60 percent of punitive damages paid in the case will go to the Oregon crime victims’ fund. Lawyers for the plaintiff had sought damages of $25 million to punish the Irving, Texas-based organization, which last year had total revenue of $413 million.
Earlier in the month, the Multnomah County Circuit Court jury awarded $1.4 million in compensatory damages, of which the national organization is responsible for 60 percent, or $840,000. The Cascade Pacific Council must pay 15 percent, or $210,000. The final $350,000 portion, or 25 percent, was considered to be part of an earlier settlement and already had been paid by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which had sponsored that particular troop.
In a statement issued in response to the decision, Boy Scouts of America said because litigation continues, the judge asked the organization to refrain from comment on specific allegations in the case.
“The Boy Scouts of America has always stood against child abuse of any kind and is always looking for ways to improve its Youth Protection strategies. The BSA has zero tolerance in Scouting for any action that does not uphold the BSA’s dedication to building good character in a safe environment,” according to the organization’s statement.
Attorneys for the plaintiff did not return telephone calls seeking comments.
The case relates to accusations that date to the early 1980s. BSA was found negligent for allowing former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to associate with scouts after admitting to a church official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys. He later was convicted three times of various abuse charges involving boys and served time in prison, according to reports.
The Oregon Supreme Court in February approved the release of more than 1,000 files, so-called Scout “perversion files,” and used as evidence. BSA maintained the secret files on alleged pedophiles from 1965 to mid-1984 in an effort help keep potential pedophiles out of the organization.
“The Boy Scouts of America has a rigorous, nationwide system of checks and balances, in accordance with local laws, which keeps out of the program those individuals who should not be leading youth,” the BSA statement said. “For 100 years, the experience of being a Boy Scout has had a positive, lasting effect on the lives of 100 million young people. Each week, parents across America and their sons attend Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings run by community volunteer leaders. The success of youth organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America depends on the trust and confidence of these parents and the community, and Scouting is doing everything in its power to earn that trust every day.”