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April 15, 2010

Boy Scouts Of America Found Liable In Sex Abuse Case

Boy Scout Emblem.jpgAfter 3 weeks of trial and two days of deliberations, a Portland jury returned a $1.4 Million verdict finding the Boys Scouts of America liable for negligently allowing a confessed child abuser to continue having contact with other Boy Scouts, including the man who brought the lawsuit. The assistant Scout master had admitted to abusing 17 out of 30 young boys in his troop.

During the case, the victim's attorneys were able to introduce evidence from the Scout's own "Perversion Files" which contained information the Scouts had gathered about its leaders who had sexually abused young boys in the Scouts. The jury, during its deliberations, were able to review approximately 1000 of the Perversion Files. Not only did the jury find the local chapter liable for allowing the abuse to continue, but it also found the national Scout organization, based out of Texas, liable for punitive damages. The jury did not decide the amount of punitive damages owed. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant and to deter it and others from committing similar wrongful acts in the future.

This $1.4 Million verdict is only the first phase of the trial, in that the case will resume on April 20, 2010 to begin the punitive damages portion of the trial. In many civil trials where punitive damages are alleged by the victim, the defense attorneys will ask the court to bifurcate the trial into two phases, a compensatory damages phase and a separate punitive damages phase. This tactic keeps the jury from hearing some of the most egregious evidence until after it has decided the amount owed for compensatory damages. Once a jury finds a defendant is liable for punitive damages, settlement negotiations often ensue as most defendants do not want to risk a huge punitive award.

The Boy Scouts have vowed an appeal, but, in my humble legal opinion, their chances of getting the verdict overturned are slim, unless the appellate court finds that the statute of limitations has already run.

At Davis Law Group, we have compassionately represented many individuals who have suffered abuse by those in whom their trust was misplaced. We have successfully argued that statutes of limitations have been tolled (suspended) due to the psychological nature of the injuries inflicted and the defendant's horrifically egregious conduct. If you or a loved one feel that you have a claim for sexual abuse, contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney to discuss your case and legal options.

April 5, 2010

Boy Scout's President Blames Parents

boy scouts.1.jpgIn the highly publicized lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, a local Scout executive has testified that he believes the parents of the abused scouts are to blame. The AP wire service reported that Eugene Grant, President of the Portland metro area Scout's Council, testified he thinks that the parents of the boys who were abused were negligent and even criminally responsible for the abuse by allowing their sons to attend sleepovers at a former scout master's home. Grant told the jury that the parents should have known better than to allow their sons to spend the night in a single man's apartment. He also testified that the Scouts did not have a policy prohibiting unauthorized sleepovers in the 1980s. Grant told the jury that he does not think the Cascade Pacific Council is responsible for any of the abuse.

It amazes me that a leader of this organization can cast stones at the victims' parents and at the same time deny that the Boy Scouts are in any way responsible for what happened to these children. If Grant thinks that the parents were negligent for allowing their young boys to spend the night at the defendant's apartment, how can he deny that the Boy Scout Council was negligent when the council was aware of allegations of abuse by this scout master and yet continued to send these same boys into the woods with this pedophile for overnight camping and hiking? Who was in a better position to suspect abuse? Parents who had no knowledge of any abuse allegations or the Scout Council who had received complaints of abuse?

As I mentioned in my earlier post on this case, the court has ruled that the victim's lawyers can use the Boy Scout's secret files, known as "the Perversion Files," to try and prove a pattern by Scout officials of ignoring suspected abuse or allowing pedophiles to return to their leadership roles. Such evidence would be compelling and might well lead to a substantial punitive damages verdict against the Scout organization. Most other lawsuits filed against the Scouts for sexual abuse have settled out of court.

So far, since the jury trial began on March 17, the victim's lawyer has opened up six large boxes filled with over 20,000 pages of files the Boy Scouts of America maintained on over 1,000 national volunteers who sexually abused boys between 1965 and 1984. The victim's lawyers have not shown the jury a file connected to the defendant in this case, but I would not be surprised if that file is the last one introduced into evidence. That would be a strong way to end the case.

At Davis Law Group, we believe that all organizations that take on the responsibility of caring for and supervising children have a duty to protect those children from abusers. This seems like a very common sense concept, yet there are still dozens of youth organizations that have not adopted any policies about how to make sure abuse does not happen within their organization. Failing to adopt such anti-abuse policies can lead to abuse. If you are a parent whose child or children belong to youth organizations, whether in church, school or athletics, you should ask the leaders of those organizations about their policies for preventing sexual abuse. If they have no policies, then you should decline to have your child involved in that organization. To learn more about child sexual abuse prevention, visit Darkness to Light.

March 25, 2010

Boy Scout "Perversion Files" May Reveal Abuse In North Carolina

Boy Scouts.jpgThe Boy Scouts of America, one of the most respected organizations in the world, has kept secret files for decades on Scout leaders who have been accused of and caught sexually abusing young boys. The leadership of the Scouts have allegedly referred to the files as the "perversion files," and they have fought long and hard to keep the files from being made public. These sex files have only been seen by the public in one other case in the 1980s.

Dozens of lawsuits against the Boy Scouts have been filed over the years alleging sexual abuse by Scout leaders, but judges for the most part have denied access to the sex files or the Scouts have settled the lawsuits before trial. Attorneys for the plaintiff in the Oregon case contend that the sex files show a pattern by Scout officials of ignoring suspected abuse or allowing pedophiles to return to their leadership roles. The attorneys represent a 37 year old Oregon man who was abused by a Scout leader in the 1980s. The defendant in the Oregon case has admitted abusing 17 out of the 30 boys in his troop.

One document from the files, by a Scout leader in an undisclosed town, states that a Scoutmaster who admittedly slept in the nude and showed pornography to Cub Scouts showed bad judgment, but shouldn't be dismissed. Another document noted that a Scoutmaster who admitted sexual abuse was allowed to return to his duties after seeing a psychiatrist. Such evidence could certainly cause reasonable jurors to conclude that the Boy Scouts of America intentionally continued to expose young boys to sexually abusive leaders. Such intentional conduct could result in a substantial punitive damages verdict in the Oregon case.

There are over 4.5 million young boys between 7 and 20 years of age involved in the Scouts, and the Scouts have more than 300 leadership councils throughout the US. With thousands of Scouts in North Carolina, it is likely that some of those have also been abused by Scout leaders.

A spokesman for the Boys Scouts of America, Deron Smith, said "unfortunately, child abuse is a societal problem and there is no fail-safe method for screening out abusers." While this may be a technically true statement, there are proven methods for preventing child sexual abuse. As I have previously written, the most important rule any youth organization must have is a firm policy that prevents one adult to be alone with one child at any time. You can read about ways for preventing child sex abuse at Darkness To Light.

At Davis Law Group, we have successfully represented those who have been sexually abused by trusted adults. If you have any questions about your legal rights, feel free to call and discuss your situation with an attorney who is experienced representing those who have been sexually abused.

March 12, 2010

Asheville Music Minister Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Porn

darkness to light.gifThe former music minister at St. Eugene's Catholic Church pleaded guilty yesterday to coercing a 13 year old girl to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a child porn video. Paul Lawrence Berrell, 29, faces between 15 and 30 years in prison. Hopefully, the Federal District Court Judge who sentences him will give him the maximum prison term.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse of children happens much more often than most people think, and the statistics of child sex abuse are shocking!

According to the advocacy group Darkness to Light, 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18. Thirty to forty percent of children are abused by a family member. Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family that they know and trust. Approximately 40% are abused by an older or larger child whom they know. That leaves only 10% to be abused by a stranger.

Child sexual abuse is the least known epidemic in our society. The biggest thing that you can do to protect your children and prevent this from happening to a child that you know is to get actively involved in the prevention effort. Darkness to Light is a national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse. If you want to stop child sex abuse, go to their website and get involved.

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