The Boy Scouts of America
reached an $850 million settlement with tens of thousands of former Scouts who claim they were sexually abused while in the organization, a significant step toward resolving a slew of lawsuits that led to the organization's insolvency last year.
Ken Rothweiler, an attorney who represents 16,800 men, expressed satisfaction with the settlement and noted that it could be just the beginning of a legal battle
that could result in billions of dollars in additional settlements or judgments.
“This initial settlement of $850 million... is the largest settlement of child sexual abuse
claims in US history
,” Rothweiler said in a statement. “We will now negotiate with the insurers and sponsoring and chartering organizations who have billions of dollars in legal exposure, of which a significant portion is required to fairly compensate the survivors.”
The settlement includes up to $250 million from the BSA national organization for a trust to compensate survivors of sexual abuse, $500 million from BSA local council groups, and an additional $100 million from the group's pension fund, among other sources.
According to Reuters, the settlement has the support of approximately 60,000 abuse survivors.
The Boy Scouts said there was still "much to do," but the agreement was an "encouraging" step toward "equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving Scouting's mission."
“This significant step toward a global resolution benefits the entire Scouting community,” the group said in a statement. “This agreement will allow local councils to make their contributions to the Trust without additional drain on their assets, and will allow them to move forward with the national organization toward emergence from bankruptcy
The Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year, citing the need to "provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining BSA's important mission." Law changes in several states
have given victims of sexual assault
more time to file suit, suspending statutes of limitations.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, the Boy Scouts hope to be out of bankruptcy by the fall, when the group's recruiting
season is at its peak.
The organization has publicly apologized following a surge in abuse claims spanning decades, and last year it asked victims to come forward so it could understand the full scope of the crimes; approximately 88,000 men have made such allegations.
“This agreement ensures that we have the overwhelming support of survivors for the BSA’s proposed Plan of Reorganization, which is a key step in the BSA’s path out of bankruptcy,” the group said on Thursday.