Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging scoutmaster abused 19 kids
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America by 17 men and two women who say a scoutmaster sexually abused them when they were children in the 1960s and 1970s, ruling a 30-year statute of limitations prohibited the lawsuit.
The lawsuit filed in 2015 against the national Boy Scouts organization and two local affiliates alleged scouting leaders knew or should have known that Ridgefield Scoutmaster Donald Dennis was a danger to children and did not protect them. Dennis died in 2013. Scouting officials said they only learned of the allegations against Dennis a month before the lawsuit was filed.
Judge Charles Lee in Stamford ruled April 20 in favor of the Boy Scouts, whose lawyers argued the lawsuit was barred by a state statute of limitations that requires child sexual abuse lawsuits to be filed within 30 years of a plaintiff turning 18. The plaintiffs were all in their 50s and 60s when they sued.
The plaintiffs said they couldn’t file the lawsuit within the 30 years because scouting officials fraudulently concealed their knowledge and the facts about the abuse by Dennis. There is a fraud exception to the statute of limitations, but the judge ruled the plaintiffs did not prove any such fraud.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, who are known only as either John Doe or Jane Doe in the lawsuit, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
One of their lawyers, Brooke Goff, has said the abuse included anal and oral sex, and many of the plaintiffs continue to suffer psychological trauma. Some of the plaintiffs say they were assaulted more than 1,000 times.
When the lawsuit was filed, Goff said it appeared to be the largest lawsuit filed in the country — in terms of the number of plaintiffs — against the Boy Scouts alleging sexual abuse against a Scout leader.
The Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, thanked the judge in a statement released Wednesday.
“The behavior included in these allegations is abhorrent and runs counter to everything for which the Boy Scouts of America stands. Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members,” the statement said. “The BSA deeply regrets that there have been times when individuals abused Scouts and we offer our sincerest condolences to victims and their families.”
The Boy Scouts have taken numerous steps to prevent child abuse in the 40 years since the alleged acts in the Connecticut lawsuit occurred, including background checks on scouting leaders and requiring two adult leaders to be present at all times during programs, the statement said.
Lee’s ruling said Dennis’ name was not in the Boy Scouts’ so-called “perversion files,” internal records on adult volunteers suspected of molestation that have been made public in similar lawsuits.
The plaintiffs allege the name of Dennis’ assistant scoutmaster is in the files in connection with morals charges, so Boy Scouts leaders knew of the abuse by Dennis.