When news of Boy Scouts of America’s recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy broke, WSAV3 turned to Attorney Mark Tate to see what the legal implications of the move were. Mark, who has settled 15 Boy Scout abuse cases in Georgia, is well-positioned to understand the impact the move might have on new claims. He and the rest of our team at Tate Law Group are proud to remain a trusted resource for our community.
Read the full article on WSAV.
Background on the BSA Cases
Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has faced a wave of lawsuits in the past few years from men who accused the organization of harboring known sexual predators. Multiple Scouts have reported being sexually assaulted by troop leaders during their time in the organization. When the issue first began to garner notice, BSA implemented rule changes meant to increase protections for the young boys in its care. However, the changes may have been too little, too late.
An investigation of BSA files showed that, in the 110 years after its founding, the organization has dismissed nearly 8,000 scout leaders for sexually abusing children. These men, and potentially others who have not been named, likely victimized upward of 12,000 Boy Scouts. Many are just now speaking out as new statute of limitations laws kick in. In 2019, a number of states extended the time period in which those sexually assaulted as children have to file a suit. Over 2,000 victims of Boy Scout abuse have come forward in states across the country.
In early 2020, BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in preparation for a wave of compensation claims that could cost them billions of dollars. The organization reportedly plans to start a fund for settling with abuse victims. Unfortunately, Mark thinks their bankruptcy—victim’s fund or not—will end up disadvantaging those who come forward with complaints.
Why Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Is Unfair to Victims
By filing bankruptcy, the BSA has introduced limitations for those who wish to sue them for damages. First, the move allows them to set a time limit under which everyone seeking compensation must file their suit. This may effectively decrease the statute of limitations and force victims to either come forward before they are ready or to forego a chance for justice.
Second, creating a victim’s compensation fund may actually decrease the amount the organization ends up paying. Filings will be handled in bankruptcy court, rather than through the process previous litigants faced, and settlements and verdicts are likely to be lower. Sexual abuse, especially when it takes place between an adult authority figure and a child, can leave lifelong scars. When victims do not receive the compensation they need to seek mental health and other related therapies, justice is not served.
Closure, Not Just Compensation
Aside from the very real financial costs that can be recovered in court, confronting one’s abuser can also be part of the healing process. By limiting the time in which lawsuits can be filed, and the venue in which accusers can speak, BSA is forcing these cases to be handled on their terms. For an organization accused of hiding the names of hundreds of predators from law enforcement and family members, this latest attempt to shield itself seems to be a continuation of the same harmful behavior that led to the lawsuits in the first place.
Because the abuse happened so long ago and supporting evidence is likely thin, prosecutors may have trouble convicting those accused. Civil venues may be the only option for holding accountable those who perpetuated the pattern of abuse BSA allowed nationwide. The BSA’s decision to file for Chapter 11 may help them hold on to some of the money they should have paid abuse victims decades ago as part of this accountability. And, the filing also allows the organization to keep operating despite reports of abuse from as recent as 2016.
If You Are Ready to Tell Your Story, We Are Here
Attorney Mark Tate and the rest of our team at Tate Law Group, LLC, support justice for the victims of sexual abuse and assault. It does not matter how long ago the incident happened or who your abuser was. You deserve the chance to have your story heard and to receive compensation for the physical and emotional harm caused by this type of attack.
We’ve helped past Boy Scouts file lawsuits after coming forward with their stories of abuse. Despite the BSA’s recent actions, we will do everything we can to help you get justice—and to represent as many sexual abuse victims as possible before the organization disallows lawsuits. We understand coming forward after abuse can be difficult. Our compassionate team can provide the legal and emotional support you need during this time.
Call Attorney Mark Tate and the team at Tate Law Group, LLC at (912) 234-3030 or reach out online for your free and confidential consultation.