A jury has ordered the Boy Scouts to pay more than $1 million in damages to an Oregon man who sued the group over sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a troop leader in the 1980s.
The plaintiff, Kerry Lewis, said he was molested by Timur Dykes, an assistant scoutmaster, beginning in 1983 when Lewis was 10.
“We are gravely disappointed with the verdict,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement on its Web site today. “We believe that the allegations made against our youth protection efforts are not valid. We intend to appeal.”
The Multnomah County Circuit Court jury also found that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which had previously settled a separate lawsuit with Lewis for an undisclosed sum, bore some of the responsibility for the abuse.
At issue in the lawsuit was whether the Boy Scouts of America knew of scout leaders who posed a potential risk to boys. Kelly Clark, Lewis’ attorney, compared the behavior of Boy Scouts administrators to the Catholic Church’s cover-up of pedophile priests, The Oregonian newspaper reported. Clark told the jury that the organization had known about pedophile scout leaders since 1925, when it began keeping a secret list of them, but failed to notify the parents of children in the Boy Scouts.
Chuck Smith, the lead lawyer for Boy Scouts of America, said Clark’s comparison was unfair, since the group only kept the list so that it could ban those suspected of potential abuse.
According to The Oregonian, however, the judge in the case, John Wittmayer, ordered the Boy Scouts to hand over to the jury more than 1,000 files on suspected pedophiles within the organization.
In those documents, it was revealed that Dykes had confessed to Gordon McEwen, a Mormon bishop, that he had molested several children in the Boy Scouts. But records seem to indicate that after being removed from his position as assistant scoutmaster, Dykes was allowed to continue to have contact with boys and participate in scouting events. As a result, his lawyer argued, Dykes eventually went on to molest Lewis.
In its verdict, the jury allocated the payment of damages — which totaled $1.4 million — so that the Boy Scouts of America accounted for 60 percent of the negligence; the local chapter, the Cascade Pacific Council, accounted for 15 percent; and the Mormon church accounted for 25 percent.
Punitive damages have yet to be determined, and during that phase of the trial, jurors could impose additional penalties of up to $25 million against the Boy Scouts.