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Civil Boy Scout sexual abuse case goes to trial

A 20-year-old man who was sexually abused by a Boy Scout adult volunteer in 2007 has sued the Boy Scouts of America in a personal injury lawsuit. The case began trial this week.

The man is arguing that the organization failed to warn parents and volunteers about the dangers of sexual abuse. His attorney said he will be using 16 years of "perversion" files that the organization kept private, documenting "a long and sordid history of child sexual abuse committed against young Scouts." 

The attorney is arguing that the Boy Scouts organization knew that abuse was occurring over the years and should have done more to warn parents of its existence and prevent it from happening.

In the late 1980s when several molestation cases gained public scrutiny, the organization promised to better-protect Scouts with new policies.

This is the first high-profile lawsuit against the organization for abuse occurring after the policy to better-protect Scouts was put into place. Therefore, the files that the plaintiff plans to introduce as evidence could shed light on whether or not those changes were effective.

Even though only the portions of the files that the plaintiff uses in the case will be open to public record, it is likely that the plaintiff and other interested parties could ask the judge to release all of the never-before-seen files to the public after the trial.

If the jury agrees that the organization was negligent by not doing enough to protect the Scouts from abuse, it could be required to pay major damages. The plaintiff in the case has asked for punitive damages, which could result in a multi-million-dollar award.

Punitive damages can be awarded to plaintiffs in civil personal injury cases in excess of the monetary or non-monetary damages that they suffered. They are awarded in order to punish defendants for bad behavior.  

Source: Sacramento Bee, "Sex-abuse civil trial to unveil Boy Scout 'perversion' files," Gillian Flaccus, Jan. 26, 2015

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