The Latest on the Boy Scout Settlement

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Some Ohio lawmakers want to extend the statute of limitations in the Buckeye State in order to increase settlement payments for sex abuse survivors.

Sex abuse settlement payouts are connected to the statute of limitations, which is unusually short in Ohio and some other states. “To put the matter into perspective,” Rep. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, stated, “a Boy Scouts abuse claim in Alabama might be worth a minimum of $3,300 or maximum of $148,500, while the same claim in New York was worth a minimum of $60,000 or a maximum of $2.7 million.” Co-sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, added that, under current Ohio law, claimants would receive only “30-45 percent” of their potential settlement shares.

Conservatives, like Ashville Republican Rep. Brian Stewart, oppose the measure. “There’s a certain ‘you give a mouse a cookie he’ll want a glass of milk,’” Stewart remarked. “We tend to be an incrementalist state, and if you crack the door to this, how far do you open it the next time?”

Statutes of Limitations

TV lawyers routinely urge victims to “call now” because “time is running out” or “you have a limited amount of time to act.” These marketing pitches refer to the statute of limitations, which is usually two years in a personal injury case.

In most states, once victims fully know all their injuries and connect those injuries with someone else’s wrongful conduct, the SOL clock starts ticking.

Sometimes, the statute of limitations isn’t much of an issue. If Jim is hurt in a car crash, all his injuries are usually apparent within days or weeks.

Other times, the statute of limitations is a serious issue. If Jim was sexually abused as a boy, he might not recover that memory for decades.

Memory repression is extremely common in these situations. Many child sex abuse victims don’t think anyone will believe them, so they don’t immediately come forward. Other victims rationalize things, like “maybe he didn’t know that was wrong” or “maybe I don’t remember things right.”

In all such situations, the brain suppresses traumatic memories, so at best, these victims can only recall fragments, like they woke up after nightmares.

However, even if the statute of limitations has passed, these victims usually still have legal options. A personal injury lawyer must simply prove the victim didn’t know the full extent of his/her injuries, as outlined above.

The Boy Scout Settlement

Beginning in the mid 2010s, some 80,000 child sexual abuse victims came forward with allegations against Boy Scout leaders. According to court documents, the Boy Scouts knew about these issues. But instead of taking responsibility for these incidents, the Boy Scouts swept them under the rug.

In other words, the organization had a chance to do the right thing, and it simply threw away that chance.

That pattern continued. Rather than face the music in court, the Boy Scouts took the easy way out and declared bankruptcy. A federal judge granted that request, if the Boy Scouts set up a $2.4 billion victim compensation fund.

As the above story indicates, the fund rules are very complex. Victims cannot simply go online, fill out a few forms, and wait for payment.

Once the judge granted the bankruptcy, court supervision ended, at least for most purposes. So, there’s basically no one minding the store, which means the VCF administrators can make up pretty much any rules they want.

Only Boy Scout sex abuse victims with aggressive and experienced lawyers have a good chance of obtaining fair compensation for their injuries.

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Bret Thurman

Bret is a former lawyer and full-time writer who knows how to simplify complex topics. He received his law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. For over twenty years, he handled a wide variety of cases, including criminal defense, personal injury, family law, and consumer bankruptcy.

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