Plaintiffs Look to D.C.’s ‘Lookback Window’ to Broaden Boy Scout Sex Abuse Suits
Many adults trying to seek justice for sexual abuse as children find they are late finding they are running out of time to file a claim.
Known in the law as the “Statue of Limits,” it is at the center of a novel civil lawsuit filed in Washington, DC against the Boy Scouts of America. The lawsuit’s eight plaintiffs, who claim they were sexually abused as young boy scouts, are trying to circumvent statute of limitations in their own states by arguing that their case should be heard in the country’s capital.
Because BSA was founded and established in Washington, DC, and because Washington opened a two-year “lookback window” that allows victims to make claims that were previously excluded by statute of limitations.
With that window opening in 2019, Washington, DC, along with 24 states, took steps to give sexual abuse victims greater opportunities to make claims. For example, California has opened a three-year window for potential claims regardless of age.
The eight plaintiffs are not from either state, so there’s not much they can do about the injustice done to them long ago – unless they can convince the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that all former Boy Scouts are one have the right to sue based on the alleged physical location of BSA.
A group of lawyers named Abused in Scouting filed the case in the federal district court in Washington, DC, on January 6, saying they wanted to bring BSA to justice for “covering up decades of organization-wide sexual abuse.”
“The plaintiffs should not be denied any legal remedy if they were abused as a child by a BSA boy scout master or boy scout leader in a state without a window law,” said her complaint.
In a January 6 press release, the advocacy group said it now represents 1,551 men who claim they were molested while serving with the Boy Scouts.
Legal Challenges for Plaintiffs
However, the plaintiffs appear to be having an uphill battle.
First, BSA’s national headquarters are in Irving, Texas; not Washington, DC Second, none of the plaintiffs live in DC. Sexual abuse cases are usually heard in the areas where the incident occurred.
Attorney Phil Cammarata, who represented Bill Clinton Prosecutor Paula Jones, and several Bill Cosby prosecutors, told the Washington Post that plaintiffs in the Boy Scout “may have an uphill battle”.
“You would have to convince a court that even though the act took place outside of DC, the company was somehow responsible for the act in DC,” he told the Post.
However, plaintiffs’ attorneys argue that BSA should be held responsible for abuse across the country in the DC court as the federal charter of Congress makes Washington, DC its official home.
The charter requires the BSA to submit an annual report to Congress and the lawyers argue that the organization negligently failed to inform Congress that it “has been infiltrated by tens of thousands of pedophiles and that hundreds of thousands of Boy Scouts have suffered sexual abuse. BSA has suffered sexual abuse that terrible truth withheld while scouting was marketed as a safe and moral activity for children. “