An attorney whose firm represents more than 300 victims claiming abuse against the Boy Scouts of America says it will take more than fair compensation if the organization wants to take responsibility.
Irving-based Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday it filed for bankruptcy protection, resorting to Chapter 11 in hopes of equitably compensating victims while ensuring the 110-year-old organization will carry on.
The announcement comes as scores of lawyers seek settlements on behalf of several thousand men who say they were sexually abused as scouts, but are only now eligible to sue because of recent changes in their states’ statute-of-limitations laws, the Associated Press reports.
“I think they should make all of their files on people who have been accused of sex abuse, they should redact the names of the victims and put those files out there so people can read it for themselves,” attorney Jason Amala said. "That’s a big fear our clients have – to use this bankruptcy and say, 'Oops we’re sorry. Then say 'We don’t really need to worry about what we did or what went wrong, because we’re just going to pay people and move on.' That’s not what people want."
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Amala, based in Seattle, is a partner with the firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala. Their firm has represented survivors of "boy scout abuse," as described by Amala, for about 20 years.
Of their 300-plus clients, nearly two dozen claim they were abused in Texas, Amala said.
“The problem of abuse in scouting was so significant that once states like California, New Jersey and New York talked about changing their laws so that people can bring claims today, we knew it was pretty inevitable that Boy Scouts would file for bankruptcy,” Amala said.
Dallas resident David Walsh was reading an article when he decided to come forward. It’s been decades since his time with the Boy Scouts, but he said he remembered everything from the very beginning.
“I’ve kept it a secret for over 40 years,” Walsh said.
He said it wasn’t long before his accused abuser was preyed on him.
“The first time it started was on a first overnight,” he said. “He like snuggled up behind me and we’re both naked, and we’re in a room full of boys in our sleeping bags.”
Walsh said the abuse happened the entire two years he was active in the organization.
He said what he endured can’t be undone, but he hoped speaking and taking legal action would help make things right in the future.
“I almost went through stages with it, of anger, denial and all that kind of stuff. And then I got a point to resolve,” he said. “Maybe other people will want to tell their story, tell their truth.”
In an open letter issued to victims, BSA national chair Jim Turley apologized.
BSA, along with Amala’s firm, encouraged victims to come forward. He said the Chapter 11 filing was a way for BSA to "wipe the slate clean," but said the issue could be more complex for victims.
“The problem for abuse survivors is you got to file a claim or you’re going to be wiped off the slate, so that’s why it’s really important for people to come forward and file claims, but I’m the first to say it’s really unfair because forcing abuse survivors to come forward when they’re not ready,” he said. “It’s just not fair, but unfortunately, that’s how the bankruptcy laws work.”
Amala said while the open letter and filing showed the organization taking ownership, his clients want more than fair compensation.
“They want to know what happened. Who knew what? Why didn’t do something different? Why did this happen to them,” he said. “People want fair compensation, but they want to know what happened, and they want to know this bankruptcy isn't used as a way for the Boy Scouts to keep their secrets hidden which they've been doing for decades.”
BSA said local councils have not filed bankruptcy, as they are legally separate and financially independent from the national organization.