Pandemic Pressures Boy Scouts, Already Facing Sex-Abuse Claims Avalanche
Between Covid-19 pressures and more than 95,000 sexual-abuse claims, the survival of the Boy Scouts of America is on the line in bankruptcy court, lawyers for the national youth group said Wednesday.
“Covid and the bankruptcy together have created a perfect storm,” said Jessica Boelter, the lead lawyer steering the Boy Scouts through chapter 11, at the organization’s first court appearance since the deadline passed on Monday for sexual-abuse survivors to step forward and file compensation claims.
Without a bankruptcy settlement by next summer with those tens of thousands of men, she said, the organization will be out of money.
Revenue as of September was down 50% compared with last year as pandemic restrictions have curbed camping activities, Ms. Boelter said at a hearing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.
Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts racked up $41 million in bankruptcy costs while attempting to addressits failure over the yearsto screen out sexual predators who went on to abuse youngsters.
The number of claims exceeded even the loftiest estimates of some sex-abuse attorneys who had spent years suing the Boy Scouts, Catholic dioceses and other institutions for their alleged liability in past misconduct.
In recent years, New York, California and other states opened windows for individuals who were sexually abused as children to sue the Boy Scouts and other organizations, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.
But while the Boy Scouts had planned to face the sexual-abuse claims in bankruptcy, they hadn’t counted on a pandemic that would close camps, keep children out of school and slam the organization’s bottom line, Ms. Boelter said.
Private negotiations are under way with lawyers representing victims. Also involved are local Boy Scout councils, which haven’t filed for bankruptcy along with the national organization but are considering contributing to a compensation trust to shield themselves from legal trouble.
At least 248 out of 253 local councils, which hold billions of dollars in real estate and other assets, had handed over financial data to be shared in the mediation, earning a reprieve from lawsuits and keeping their seat at the talks.
If deal discussions fail to produce an agreed resolution for the Boy Scouts, local councils may be forced to file bankruptcy, one-by-one, across the country, said Ricky Mason, a lawyer for an informal group of them.
“If the settlement negotiations fail, then the [Boy Scouts] case fails and scouting as a whole fails with it,” Mr. Mason said.
Insurers who covered the Boy Scouts will need more time to examine the sexual-abuse claims, said Tancred Schiavoni, a lawyer for Century Indemnity Co. , one of the insurance carriers that issued policies covering the organization against legal liability. The Boy Scouts “opened the floodgates,” Mr. Schiavoni said.
世纪赔偿公司(Century Indemity Co.)的律师夏沃尼(Tancred Schiavoni)说，承保童子军的保险公司将需要更多时间来审查性虐待索赔。世纪赔偿公司是为童子军出具法律责任保单的保险公司之一。夏沃尼说，童子军“打开了闸门”。