The plaintiffs were allegedly abused in Texas, Arkansas, Indiana and Wisconsin, but their lawyers claim that the plaintiffs can sue in New Jersey because the Boy Scouts was headquartered in the state between 1954 and 1979. The lawsuit follows a similar attempt filed in federal court in the District this month, which argued that because the organization has a congressional charter that establishes its domicile as the District, alleged victims from other states can sue there under its recently enacted statute-of-limitations window.
These lawsuits open up the possibility that the Boy Scouts could face a barrage of lawsuits from men around the country, even from states that have not revised their statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims, possibly increasing the century-old organization’s legal exposure.
The lawyers who represent the New Jersey plaintiffs say their team has about 100 alleged survivors of abuse who could potentially file suit under New Jersey’s law, according to their legal argument. The lawyers with a group called Abused in Scouting, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs in the District, say they have over 1,600 signed clients from around the country so far.
“Decisions were made in New Jersey by the Boy Scouts, the policies were dictated from there involving the Boy Scouts nationally, and catastrophic mistakes were made in the areas of education, training, and warning of the Scouts, parents and Scout volunteers that led to hundreds of children, probably thousands of children, being abused during that time period,” said Seattle-based attorney Michael Pfau, who is representing the plaintiffs along with attorney Jay Mascolo, who is based in New Jersey.
The lawsuit alleges that the Boy Scouts knew for decades that the organization had an issue with sexual abusers within its ranks and that it failed to adequately protect or warn children and families about the threat.
The Boy Scouts has kept detailed files, known as the ineligible volunteer files, that for decades documented thousands of pedophiles known or believed to have preyed on children. In the past decade, thousands of these records became public through lawsuits and investigative reporting. Lawyers with the group Abused in Scouting claim they have gathered allegations against hundreds of additional men that are not listed in the publicly available files.
The Boy Scouts responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit by reiterating its past statement that the organization cares “deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize[s] to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting” and encouraged Scouts to report any known or suspected abuse. The organization declined to comment on pending litigation.
David, a plaintiff who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition that only his first name be used, alleges that he was first assaulted at age 12 or 13 when he was in the Boy Scouts in Amarillo, Tex., in the late 1970s.
The man that David alleges abused him and his fellow Scouts appears in an ineligible volunteer file, obtained and published by the Los Angeles Times in a 2012 investigation.
David claimed that an assistant scoutmaster in his troop was known to behave inappropriately around the Scouts while they were on trips. When the assistant attempted to fondle him in his sleeping bag on one such overnight excursion, David fled to a different part of the lodge, he told The Post.
He remembered his fellow Scouts laughing at him. “Older kids knew about it,” David said.
He claimed that he saw the assistant scoutmaster perform oral sex on other boys and touch them inappropriately. David alleges he was also sexually abused by the assistant scoutmaster during the three summers he spent with the Boy Scouts.
David, who lives in Dallas with his partner and has three adult children, said he had buried the experience for years but recently had begun to work through it in therapy. He said he felt compelled to contact Pfau, Mascolo and their colleagues to join the lawsuit in New Jersey so that the abuse he allegedly suffered in the Boy Scouts doesn’t happen to other children.
“We got to talk about it,” he said. “We’re at a place right now where … we can’t be silent anymore.”