Sarah Gonzalez: Hi, I'm Sarah Gonzalez in for Tanzina Vega, and you're listening to The Takeaway. In February 2020, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy after facing a growing number of sex abuse lawsuits. Over the course of last year, the bankruptcy case has grown to be one of the biggest and most expensive sexual abuse cases in history. More than 80,000 people have filed claims in this bankruptcy case against the Boy Scouts for sexual abuse.
The organization, scrambling to resolve this case, has proposed different exit strategies to pay the tens of thousands of victims, fearing that if the case is not resolved by the end of the summer, the national nonprofit may have to dissolve. Many survivors are angry at the Boy Scouts proposals and they're also angry with the court for blocking out and redacting much of the testimony that's been submitted. Many survivors would like their stories to be made public. Joining us now to help break all of this down is Cara Kelly, Investigative Reporter with USA Today. Cara, thank you for joining us.
Cara Kelly: Thank you for having me.
Sarah Gonzalez: This case is complicated. Let's begin back in February of last year, what exactly led the Boy Scouts to file bankruptcy?
Cara Kelly: It is a very complex case, but what led them to this position was really the mounting liability from the sexual abuse allegations. What has changed over the years societally, we're viewing things like statutes of limitations differently. Those used to bar people who had experienced, specifically child sexual abuse from filing lawsuits or claims later, many years past when they had actually experienced the abuse.
We understand now that many people who experienced such things as the child may not come forward with it until they're significantly older. I think the average age is around 50 or 55. Many states have been-- It's pretty shocking. You kind of understand why some people really feel that they can't tell anybody at the time and they're so young, that they just keep it within themselves and it takes a really long time for them to feel comfortable to tell other people.
Sarah Gonzalez: Can you give us an example of the sexual abuse allegations? I mean, there's 80,000 separate allegations, which is shocking.
Cara Kelly: Yes, they are wide-ranging but at the same time, it's pretty heartbreaking in how similar a lot of them are. The abuse ranges everything from fondling to rape allegations. Some of it is extremely violent and very, very difficult to hear. You can see that several of these survivors have written letters to the judge in this case detailing what happened to them.
You can read through, those are now on the public docket but some of the graphic pieces, the court has been redacting out. That's talking about the rape itself or other violent encounters. The survivors, some of them are really upset about that because they want people to know how traumatic this was, what really the impact was on their lives.
Sarah Gonzalez: Can you tell us how exactly sexual abuse lawsuits end up in a bankruptcy court?
Cara Kelly: Yes, it's been happening more and more recently, we saw it with the USA Gymnastics case that led them to bankruptcy as well, the Catholic Church, many dioceses have filed for bankruptcy. What has happened is that states have opened these statutes of limitations or what we call look back windows where they're allowing people who have experienced child sexual abuse to file lawsuits later in time. Several of these organizations that have had problems with this for many, many years have been facing lawsuits that they probably didn't think that they were ever going to face because so much time had passed and it's landing them in really financial hot water. I think that's what happened here.
Sarah Gonzalez: Okay, Cara, we have to take a quick break, but we'll be back with more. This is The Takeaway. We're back. I'm Sarah Gonzalez in for Tanzina Vega, and this is The Takeaway. We continue our conversation with Cara Kelly, Investigative Reporter with USA Today, breaking down the latest in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy case in which tens of thousands of people are filing claims of sexual abuse. Talk to us about the sheer price of this bankruptcy lawsuit. How much money has been spent on this case?
Cara Kelly: The price here is staggering. We saw it too with USA Gymnastics in that there was some reporting around the cost of bankruptcy lawyers. Here, so far, I think it was in March where lawyers for the Boy Scouts said that there's already been $100 million spent in this case. They're averaging about $10 million a month. This is largely for attorneys fees, but there are several other professionals that have been hired, real estate experts, other claims experts. There's a lot of professionals who are being paid out.
All of this is coming out of the Boy Scouts estate. The judge made the point in a hearing that this could be used to pay creditors. In this case, the overwhelming number of creditors are the survivors themselves.
Sarah Gonzalez: The high attorney fees end up affecting how much the victims end up getting.
Cara Kelly: Potentially, yes.
Sarah Gonzalez: Cara, it's been over a year since the case was filed, where do the parties stand in terms of reaching a settlement?
Cara Kelly: Everyone will need to agree here, at least for the most part, in order for a plan to be approved and for the reorganization to go forward. The Boy Scouts submitted their first plan of reorganization maybe a month or two ago, they amended it. Now, the attorneys for the survivors and the group that has been charged with representing the survivors have filed their objections to it.
The big objection from the committee that represents the survivors was pretty scathing. That's what came out a few days ago. They really feel that they don't have enough information from the plan itself to determine if it's actually a fair deal for them. There's a lot of missing information on the financial status of the national organization itself and a lot of the local councils and how much the local councils are going to be contributing to a settlement or a trust for the victims.
Sarah Gonzalez: In this recent proposal, how much money would survivors get if they agree?
Cara Kelly: There are going to be a lot of different factors here that haven't been completely worked out. In the first plan, it was going to equate to about $6000 something if you divided it equally among all of the individuals who have filed claims.
The Boy Scouts said that they were going to get the local councils to add an additional $100 million or $150 million to that plan, but they haven't gotten confirmation from the local councils that they're actually going to do that or not. This is kind of more of a wish. That number would go up, but that's also not accounting for there will probably be different rates that the survivors will get based on their specific stories, so the specific abuse that they experienced. There'll be a lot of different factors.
Sarah Gonzalez: Are any of the survivors pushing for the organization to be done away with as a whole?
Cara Kelly: It really varies. I think it's a very personal thing. A lot would like to see it continue because they actually do have some fond memories of it, but some say they need to have significant changes, that the changes they've made in order to protect children that have not been enough. Others are ready to burn it down. It's very different. It varies between person to person.
Sarah Gonzalez: Cara Kelly is an investigative reporter with USA Today, Cara, thank you so much.
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