Earlier this month, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it had reached a potential settlement with groups representing about 60,000 men who claim they were sexually abused during their youth by scout leaders and other personnel. The settlement would also provide a framework for a global resolution of other claims. Approximately 82,000 sex abuse claims have been filed through the BSA’s bankruptcy.
Under the proposed settlement, the BSA and over 250 local councils would contribute a total of $850 million to a settlement trust. The settlement trust, which would also have access to insurance payouts owed to the BSA, would administer the claims and distribute compensation to survivors. The estimated payout for each survivor would be $3,500.
There are also non-monetary provisions to the settlement, according to Reuters. Although reports don’t detail all of the provisions, Reuters says that there would be a “child protection committee” created to ensure current and future scouts would be safe.
Negotiations and mediation are still ongoing, judge must approve any settlement
The deal is not completely done. For one thing, it would have to be approved by the bankruptcy judge. She has set a hearing for July 29 to give the BSA’s insurers time to make arguments against the settlement.
The insurers argue that the settlement would validate insurance coverage for tens of thousands of claimants without enough vetting, putting the insurance companies on the hook for claims that aren’t legitimate. During a recent hearing, a lawyer for the Century Indemnity Company said that the individual sex abuse claims are not being properly evaluated, leaving open the possibility of fraudulent claims being paid out.
It’s not just the insurers who have hesitations about the potential settlement. An attorney representing several thousand survivors said that his clients have not yet signed on. Among their concerns is how future claims would be handled. According to him, future claims would be limited to people who are currently under 18 or who later experience recovered memories of being abused. However, not all states recognize recovered memories as sufficient evidence.
Moreover, churches and charter organizations that sponsored local Boy Scouts troops have also challenged the settlement. They worry they could be on the hook for indirect abuse claims.
Mediation intended to structure a fair settlement is ongoing. Some insurers have accused the BSA’s lawyers of leaving them out of crucial mediation sessions with survivor groups – an allegation that the BSA’s attorneys deny.
Meanwhile, the funds available to compensate abuse survivors are slowly dwindling away in the form of legal fees. According to court papers, the BSA expects to spend $150 million in legal fees over the course of the bankruptcy, which is expected to continue through the end of summer.
Founded in 1910, the BSA filed for bankruptcy in February 2020 after thousands of men accused the organization of allowing sex abuse. Several states, including New York, passed laws that temporarily allow claims from people who were abused years or decades ago.
The bankruptcy only involves the national organization, not the local councils.