Boy Scouts Sex Abuse Claims: Will SOL Windows or BSA Bankruptcy Help?

Boy Scouts sex abuse is in the news. Hundreds of men hoping to sue the Boy Scouts of America over alleged sexual abuse are coming forward for the first time. They are coming forward now, as adults, because the Boy Scouts have been talking about filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy does mean the Boy Scouts would go out of business, it only means a “reorganization” and protection from creditors – including people who seek compensation because they were molested as Scouts.


Most of the men coming forward now were sexually abused by Scout volunteers who took advantage of them while on camping trips or when they were alone together because the boys trusted their Scout leaders. These child molesters were able to sexually exploit the boys because of the relationship they built through Scouting.

BSA knew child molesters targeted its organization because BSA kept “Ineligible Volunteer” files on Scoutmasters and other adult leaders it had kicked out based on accusation of inappropriate sexual conduct with children. Many of these existing files are public because we used them in one of our sex abuse trials against the Boy Scouts here in Portland in 2010 and the Oregon Supreme Court ordered that they be made public in 2012.

But it is important to know that many adults who sexually abused and exploited kids in Boy Scouts are not in BSA’s files. BSA did not create a file on every child molester. BSA only created a file on the child molesters that came to the attention of the Boy Scout national office. And because BSA kept the file system “confidential,” local volunteers did not know to report child molesters to the national office. BSA also destroyed an unknown number of these “IV Files” or “Perversion Files” (BSA’s own term for them) over the years. So if someone calls us looking for the name of a child molester in the Boy Scout files, we may have a copy of the file, but it could be that no file exists.


Many of the men coming forward with claims for Boy Scouts sex abuse were involved with Scout troops sponsored by the LDS Church because they grew up in Mormon communities. Until last year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was one of the largest sponsors of Boy Scouts in the country, and the largest in the western United States. In 2019, the LDS Church formally cut its ties with Boy Scouts after a partnership that had lasted over 100 years.

Men who were abused in LDS-sponsored Scout troops could also bring claims against the Church. Other organizations that sponsored Boy Scout troops could also be liable for abuse by adult volunteers, depending on the circumstances. The Catholic and Methodist Churches are other major sponsors of Scouting. If BSA files for bankruptcy, claims against sponsoring organization would be affected, but would still proceed.


Another thing prompting men to come forward now are statute of limitation efforts in states making the law more favorable for claims involving abuse that happened longer ago. Several states have recently passed “window” legislation allowing civil lawsuits against BSA and sponsoring organizations for abuse that happened long ago. These windows stay open for a limited time.

For example, New York’s Child Victims Act opens a one-year “window of opportunity” for victims of any age from August 14, 2019 to August 14, 2020 to file civil claims against their abusers and the institutions that covered up the abuse, no matter how long ago the abuse took place or where they live now.

The California Assembly is working on similar legislation. If it passes as expected, California will open a three-year window starting January 1, 2020.

Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Washington, DC, also passed statutes of limitations reforms in 2019 that included windows for past claims. Georgia, Indiana, and Pennsylvania are considering similar reforms.

To bring an old claim under one of these windows, the claim has to be filed before the window closes. If the Boy Scouts file for bankruptcy, the court will set a deadline for when claims must be filed in the bankruptcy case. No one knows until that happens what that deadline will be and how it will match up with these windows or with the regular statutes of limitations in each state.


Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has not filed for bankruptcy yet. Until BSA files for bankruptcy, the deadline for filing Boy Scouts sex abuse claims is uncertain and depends on the state where the abuse happened. Laws across the country are changing all the time when it comes to deadlines for filing claims and liability against organizations like the Boy Scouts that allowed children to be sexually abused.

If you or someone you know was abused in the Boy Scouts, call or email us with questions you might have. 503-616-5007 or


Dumas and Vaughn Attorneys at Law has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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