April 23, 2010
Portland, Ore—A jury today found the Boy Scouts of America liable for punitive damages for the sexual abuse of a then 12 year old boy in the 1980’s, returning a verdict of $18.5million in punitive damages—having last week returned a verdict of $ 1.4 in general compensatory damages. The trial lasted nearly 6 weeks. Under
“This is a tremendous win and a vindication of the truth about what happened to this boy,” said trial attorneys Kelly Clark and Paul Mones, co-counsel for the plaintiff, in a prepared statement. “The lessons of this case are that it is wrong for a youth organization to put the interests of the organization before the safety of the children,” they added. “Child abuse is always a devastating poison in the soul of any child, and this jury clearly recognized the profound impact that this abuse had on this young boy, and wanted to send a signal that a jury in Portland, Oregon will not tolerate any youth organization—even the venerated Boy Scouts of America—that keeps secrets about dangers to children. We are very proud of him for standing up for himself and for all abuse victims. If one child is saved from abuse because of this trial, it will be a win with lasting significance.”
The plaintiff, Kerry Lewis, now 38, had been known before the trial only as “Jack Doe 4”—there are a total of 6 men who are suing for abuse by the same perpetrator—but during the trial, he allowed his name to be used publicly. He was abused on 6 separate occasions when he was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, at age 10-12. “I’m grateful for the chance to tell my story,” he said, “and it was bottled up inside me for too long. Now I get to go on and finish my healing. This trial was a great way to start the process of putting all this behind me, so I can focus on being a good man, a good friend, and a good father.”
Highlights of the trial included the presentation, for the first time before any jury, of over 1000 confidential files—totaling nearly 20,000 pages of documents—concerning adult Scout leaders from 1965-85 who had been accused of abusing Scouts. The trial court had ordered the documents produced in December, but the Scouts appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court, which on Feb 19 refused to hear the appeal or to block the order. The BSA finally produced the documents on March 2, and the trial commenced on March 15.
“When it came to child sexual abuse, the BSA motto was not ‘be prepared’ but rather was ‘be quiet,’” Clark and Mones commented. The plaintiff argued that the confidentiality of these sexual abuse files, and the refusal of the Scouts to warn parents of the known dangers of abuse in Scouting, amounted to a cover-up, driven by the BSA’s desire to keep up its membership. In that regard, the plaintiff produced a surprise witness during the last week of the main trial, Larry O’Connor, a lifelong Scouter from Alaska and a former professional Scout executive, who testified that, throughout the 1970’s the BSA deliberately inflated membership numbers all over the country through a mechanism called “ghost units”—Scout Troops that only existed on paper. The inflated numbers, Clark and Mones argued, was evidence of the motive for covering up the abuse problem—the desire not to lose members and financial support. In closing argument,
The plaintiff’s case also included evidence about what other youth organizations were doing in the 1980’s to protect children, especially the Big Brothers and Sisters, which had aggressive child abuse training and education programs in place by the 1980’s, while the Boy Scouts of America had not begun similar programs. The plaintiff had been abused in 83 and 84 by an Assistant Scoutmaster named Timur Dykes, despite that Dykes had admitted to Troop leaders in January 1983 that he had molested 17 Scouts. The plaintiff’s parents were never warned about his dangerousness, and that failure, according to plaintiff’s attorneys, led to further abuse, including of plaintiff.
The punitive damages phase of the trial highlighted the BSA’s surprisingly rich financial statements—with nearly $1 billion in assets, including $660 million in unrestricted funds, annual revenues of $400 million, and a $45 million art collection. The plaintiff’s lawyers during the punitive damages phase of the trial highlighted lavish spending within the top brass of BSA, including the salary of the Chief Scout Executive, who earns a total compensation of $1.2 million annually.
The next of the five remaining trials against the BSA and its Cascade Pacific Council in
Rebecca Tweed, Media Relations Director at:
(503) 860-6033 or Rebecca@tweedandassociates.com