Boy Scout Victims' Choice: Sue Rashly, Or Wait And Risk Loss
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Some victims of childhood sex abuse who are considering suing the Boy Scouts of America face a choice: an anguished rush to meet a deadline earlier than what lawmakers intended, or wait and sue local councils, perhaps putting them at greater risk of losing.
Attorneys for the Scouts and victims agreed during federal bankruptcy proceedings this month on a Nov. 16 deadline by which victims must come forward with a claim or be barred from bringing one later, with the victims’ lawyers seeking a cutoff in late December and the Boy Scouts pushing for early October.
New Jersey, New York, California and a few other states loosened their statute of limitations last year.
Victims in New Jersey, which opened a two-year “window” for victims who were previously barred from suing, must decide whether to pursue their claim by the November date instead of the one specified in the law passed last year — in December 2021.
California opened a three-year window last year, while New York's Legislature voted to extend its one-year window, set to expire in August, until August 2021 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Other states with windows that end after the Nov. 16 date include Arizona, North Carolina and Vermont, which has a permanent window for those alleging abuse. Washington, D.C., would also be affected.
Victims would still be able to pursue cases against local councils, though, according to attorneys. The drawback, attorneys say, is that councils could defend themselves by deflecting blame to the national organization, which could not be included in suits after Nov. 16.
Michael Kaminski, 63, of Parsons, Kansas, filed a claim in New Jersey Superior Court this month before the deadline was agreed to against the Scouts and is part of the federal bankruptcy proceedings. He says in his suit that he was abused by a Scout leader when he was a teenager.
After years of coping with anxiety, guilt and shame, he said, he read about other lawsuits against the Scouts and wrestled in his mind with the organization's history.
The idea of being prevented from “helping those that suffer from abuse” by coming forward with his own story and lighting a path for others anguished him, he said.
“Had I not seen those Boy Scout cases online, I might not have come forward,” he said. “If I don’t come forward, then that’s it. That’s a voice that will not be heard,” he said.
Advocates for victims and the lawmakers who wrote the laws giving victims longer to sue say the sped-up timeline defeats their purpose: to give victims time to confront abuse and decide on their ow...