Local sex abuse victim advocate calls two lawsuits filed against Boy Scouts of America 'groundbreaking'

Mark Abrams
February 15, 2020 - 5:08 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia-based child abuse victim advocate is calling two recent lawsuits filed against the Boy Scouts of America groundbreaking cases. The suits were filed by men who claim they were sexually abused by their leaders years ago.

One of the suits was filed in Washington, D.C; the other in New Jersey. The abuse did not occur in either location, nor did the victims reside in those places.

Marci Hamilton, a lawyer and founder of the Child USA organization, says lawyers representing the victims filed in D.C. - the place where the Boy Scouts were chartered by Congress in 1916  - and in New Jersey - where the BSA had its headquarters from 1954 to 1979.

"This is really new territory and I really view the New Jersey filing and the Washington filing as lawyers trying to do something innovative to try to meet the new landscape that's being laid out by the institutions," Hamilton said.

She added, "They're arguing that must have been the locus of business in the United States and therefore that's where you can sue them and they would be liable there."

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According to Hamilton, both Washington, D.C. and New Jersey recently opened windows in their statutes of limitations laws to allow abuse victims to file suits against organizations who employed or supervised abusers. 
 
However, she worried there may be a wrinkle in the strategy, because published reports said the BSA may be preparing to file for bankruptcy.

"That federal bankruptcy case will have jurisdiction over every other Boy Scout case in the United States," she said. "It's possible that there could then be a stay on all other litigation across the country if the federal bankruptcy judge says, 'Yes, you can try to resolve all your claims at once across the United States.'"

At stake are billions of dollars and the survival of the BSA.