A jury has ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay 18.5 million US dollars to a man who was sexually abused by a former assistant Scoutmaster in what is believed to be the largest such award against the organisation.
Lawyers for Kerry Lewis had asked the jury to award at least 25 million US dollars to punish the Boy Scouts for what the jury had agreed in the first phase of the trial was reckless and outrageous conduct.
The jury decided on April 13 that the Boy Scouts were negligent for allowing former assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes to associate with Scouts, including Lewis, after Dykes admitted to an official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys.
The jury awarded Lewis 1.4 million US dollars in compensatory damages with that verdict and agreed the Boy Scouts of America were liable for punitive damages to be determined in the second phase of the trial, which ended on Thursday.
Boy Scouts officials said it could not comment on the details of the case because others are pending, but issued a statement saying it has a "rigorous" system to screen Scout leaders.
The case was the first of six filed against the Boy Scouts in the same court in Oregon, with at least one other separate case pending. If mediation fails to settle the next cases, they also could go to trial.
The amount of the damages surprised Patrick Boyle, editor of the Youth Today newspaper and author of a book about sex abuse in the Scouts.
"That’s a lot of money. This is by far the biggest award against the Scouts for sex abuse, probably by several times," Boyle said.
The award is also significant, he said, because it is only against the national Boy Scouts organization and is not divided among any of its local councils or other defendants.
Under Oregon law, 60% of the punitive damages awarded by the jury will go to the state crime victim compensation fund.
Copyright © 2010 The Press Association. All rights reserved.