Saturday, April 24, 2010

$18.5 Million, Punitives Against the Boy Scouts of America

An Oregon jury awarded $18.5 million dollars in punitive damages against the Boy Scouts of America late Friday afternoon.  This involves the case of the former scout Kerry Lewis (pic, below,with lawyers,) and the revelation that the Scouts maintained "perversion" files which they tried to explain away as a proactive method of keeping child molesters out of scouting.  Apparently, not.

I'm going to quote from Aimee Green's article at the Oregonian website because I thinnk she does a really good job of laying out how one gets to "pun-ees:"

"During the punitive-phase of the trial, the jury was asked how much the Boy Scouts of America should have to pay to deter future lapses in protecting children and to punish past 'reprehensible' acts that failed to stop the man who sexually abused Lewis, who is now 38 and lives in Klamath Falls.

In closing arguments Thursday, one of Lewis' attorneys said punishing the Boy Scouts is no different than disciplining a thief who steals cash out of a till or the misdeeds of a Wall Street executive.  'Even if they apologize and say they won't do it again, they still have to be punished,' said Paul Mones, who represents Lewis along with Kelly Clark.

But Mones said the Scouts have yet to even issue an apology to Lewis or thousands of other boys who were molested by Scout volunteers.   Chuck Smith, an attorney for the Boy Scouts of America, discounted the importance of an apology.  'You've heard the argument we haven't apologized to the plaintiff, we haven't apologized to the parents, we haven't apologized to the country,' Smith said. 'Had there been an apology, what would these lawyers be telling you?: 'Why did it take so long?''

Then, Smith added: 'Is the only way to prevent child sexual abuse apologize?'

During the first phase of the trial, Lewis' attorneys argued that the Boy Scouts of America failed to warn parents and boys of the danger of pedophiles within its ranks because it worried doing so would drive down membership and donations. The organization has documented thousands of suspected pedophiles in 'perversion' files since the 1920s, the Scouts said to keep the men from trying to sneak back into the organization.

In Lewis' case, assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes in 1983 admitted molesting 17 Scouts to a Scouting coordinator and bishop at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southeast Portland. Lewis' attorneys argued Dykes was allowed to continue in Scouting, and he went on to molest Lewis. The Oregonian, which usually protects the identity of sexual-abuse victims, is identifying Lewis after he gave permission.

'We're not asking you to shut down the Boy Scouts. That would be wrong,' Mones told jurors. 'But you can make the Boy Scouts better. ...Some of you may have concerns about using money to punish the Boy Scouts of America, but that's all we have.'

Lewis' attorneys said it would take $25 million to get the Scouts to take notice. The $929 million organization pays its top executive $1.16 million annually; owns $100 million in property; owns a $45 million art collection and allows employees traveling with volunteers to fly first class in order to discuss business. Each month, the non-profit earns about $2.5 million a month on interest on $633 million in investments"
So you see the analysis is about "deterrence," making an example of the BSA, punishment for really loathsome disregard of scouts;  and, the scale of the BSA's financials come into the calculus for the purpose of enabling the jury to consider what feels appropriate in the circumstances.  In other words, what will get the attention of the Boy Scouts and similar organizations. 

Interestingly, under Oregon law, 60% of he verdict remits to the State of Oregon's crime victims' compensation fund.

No comments:

Post a Comment