Boy Scouts of America Must Pay Man $18.5M

Jury orders Boy Scouts to pay man $18.5M in punitive damages in sex abuse case.

ByABC News
April 7, 2010, 4:14 PM

April 23, 2010 — -- A jury on Friday ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages to an Oregon man sexually abused by a former assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s, according to the Associated Press.

The nine-member jury in Oregon already had ordered the boy scouts to pay $1.4 million in compensatory damages to Kerry Lewis on April 13, after a month-long trial, for what the jury agreed was reckless and outrageous conduct.

The jury found the Boy Scouts of America and the local scout chapter negligent in a case that accused the organization of covering up alleged sexual abuse of several of its boy scouts for years.

Lewis' lawyers were asking the jury to award at least another $25 million to punish the Boy Scouts in the punitive phase of the trial.

Nevertheless, the $18.5 million penalty amounts to one of the largest ever against the Boy Scouts of America.

Laywers also noted the Boy Scouts had never apologized to Lewis, who said Friday at a news conference that the verdict shows that "big corporations can't be above the law."

In the civil suit filed last month in Portland, Ore., six plaintiffs alleged that the Boy Scouts of America allowed convicted child sex-offender Timur Dykes to continue to participate and lead troop activities, including sleepovers at his home with the scouts, even after he confessed in 1983 to having abused as many as 17 scouts.

In a written statement after the the $1.4 million award, the Boy Scouts of America said that it was "gravely disappointed with the verdict."

"We believe that the allegations made against our youth protection efforts are not valid. We intend to appeal," read the statement.

Kelly Clark, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement after the verdict and the $1.4 million award that "the verdict speaks for itself," at the time, declining to comment further.

"This is certainly a hit for the Boy Scouts of America," Patrick Boyle, the author of "Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution" and a researcher of scout abuse for more than 20 years, said after the initial verdict and $1.4 million award.

"Commonly, the local chapter is the only one that gets hit. This isn't unprecedented, but this is big," he said. "They lost, and $1.4 million is a decent amount of money."

The lawsuit focused on a now 37-year-old Portland man, identified by The Associated Press as Kerry Lewis, who claimed he was abused as a boy by Dykes while the Boy Scouts of America and the Cascade Pacific Council in Oregon, his specific Scout branch, did nothing.

Dykes, who had already been convicted twice on child abuse charges, was again convicted in 1994, when he admitted the abuse and was imprisoned. He is out on parole until 2013.

Furthering the plaintiffs case against the organization was the admission into the trial of more than a 1,000 pages of so-called perversion files, which are confidential documents kept by the Boy Scouts of America regarding people who have been kicked out of scouting for a variety of reasons, including sex the abuse of scouts.

The perversion files have only been used once before in a trial against the organization, and in that instance the jury ruled against the Boy Scouts of America, which had to pay damages.