NJ law opens floodgate for sex abuse lawsuits against Boy Scouts
NEW BRUNSWICK — A lawsuit accuses the Boys Scouts of America of reckless decision-making during the organization's time headquartered in New Jersey, which the suit says perpetuated the repeated sexual assault of young scouts.
According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Superior Court in New Brunswick, BSA was a New Jersey corporation whose headquarters and principal place of business was located in North Brunswick from 1954 to 1979, including during the time that the four plaintiffs were sexually abused.
The complaint says the BSA had the right to control the means and manner of staffing, operation and oversight of any Boy Scout troop, Cub Scout troop or other troop when the four men were sexually abused as boys.
One victim says he was sexually abused by two adults affiliated with Boy Scouts between the ages of 12 and 15 while he was in Arkansas from 1973 through 1976.
The second man says was sexually abused from 1979 to 1981 at ages 12 to 14 in Indiana by two adults affiliated with Boy Scouts.
A third man says he was sexually abused while growing up in Wisconsin, from the ages of 13 to 17 years between 1978 and 1982.
According to the lawsuit, that abuser was “a known sexual predator of children” who other boys from the troop had previously reported to other adult leaders. "But BSA failed to take reasonable steps to prevent further abuse," the lawsuit says.
The fourth former scout was sexually abused as a 12 to 13-year-old in Texas by an adult with the Boy Scouts between 1977 and 1979.
Attorneys for the men say "reckless and negligent decision-making, acts and omissions" took place primarily in New Jersey, due to the location of BSA headquarters at the time. BSA now is based in Texas.
The suit was filed in a partnership between a Seattle-based firm, PCVA Law, and New Brunswick-based Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, months after New Jersey extended the window of time for sexual abuse victims to filed civil lawsuits against accused attackers and their affiliated organization.
“The BSA has largely succeeded in keeping the 'perversion' files hidden from the public, including Scouts and their parents. While not much is known about the files after 1985, the files that were not destroyed show that the BSA created at least 1,123 'perversion' files between 1965 and 1985 – an average of more than one new “perversion” file a week,” according to the complaint filed Tuesday.
The same files were referenced in an April 2019 lawsuit filed by an Atlantic County man who says he was sexually abused by his scout leader in the 1980s. Richard Halverson was the first victim to come forward following the release of the names of 50 Boy Scout leaders from New Jersey accused of sexually abusing minors decades ago.
Halverson's suit was aimed at forcing the Boy Scouts to release their entire Ineligible Volunteer Files.
The New Jersey names were already part of a 14,500-page report released in 2012 by the Boy Scouts of America. That report included names of Scout leaders from around the country linked to accusations between 1965 and 1985, though they were not identified by state or troop.
In May 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation that extended the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits in New Jersey against alleged abusers and the institutions where they worked.
The law allows survivors to sue up until age 55, or within seven years after they clearly remember the abuse they endured, instead of by age 20 or within two years of remembering abuse.
The legislation also provides a two-year window to victims who previously had been prevented from filing civil suits because of the statute of limitations.