Sexual abuse lawsuits are in the news a lot these days. It is now common knowledge that some priests, under the Catholic Church’s employ, were busy (between masses?) molesting and even raping boys. The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal has even reached the doorstep of the Pope! The Pope, they say, knew (before he became Pope) that these priests had sexually abused young boys, yet was complicit in a cover-up. The Church allowed the pedophile priests to continue to work with the boys even after it knew of their track record for abuse. The Church moved the abusers from one parish to another where they then abused other boys.
The victims have brought sexual abuse lawsuits not only against the individual priests that abused them, but their employer, the Church. Any compensation from these lawsuits will not come from the priests, who generally have no assets. It will come from the “deep pocket”, the Church. And rightly so, since the Church failed so miserably to protect these boys from these sexual predators.
What do the Boy Scouts of America have in common with the Catholic Church? Quite a bit, according to a sexual abuse lawsuit being tried right now in Oregon. We’re not talking about a suit against a local Boy Scout Troop, but the big buys, the actual Boy Scouts of AMERICA. The difference between this lawsuit and others that have been filed across the nation is its breadth and scope. The lawsuit accuses Boy Scouts of America of a cover-up. It alleges that the Boy Scouts of America allowed troop leaders to continue to work with scouts after they knew they had abused scouts, even sometimes after they had been convicted of sexual abuse. According to the victims’ lawyers, the Boy Scouts of America moved the abusers from one troop to another where they then abused other boys. Sound familiar? (hint – Catholic Church).
As a lawyer who has handled several Central New York sexual abuse cases, I can tell you that the main problem with these kind of cases is that you can almost never get any money out of the SOB who molested, abused or raped the child victim. Liability or homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover sexual abuse and other intentional assaults and crimes. So recovery is limited to whatever the sexual predator owns. And usually he either never owned anything of value, or if he did, he has spent it on his criminal defense, and is now rotting in a jail cell with no income.
That is why lawyers have to go after the employer (for example, the Church or the Boy Scouts of America). That is where you go to seek compensation for the horrendous humiliation, pain, suffering, emotional turmoil and even suicidal ideation that sexual abuse visits on its often very young victims. To prevail in these lawsuits, you have to show that the employer (Church, Boy Scouts of America) failed to properly screen their (priests, troop leaders) before hiring them and placing them with easy access to children, or that the employer (Church, Boy Scouts of America) failed to get rid of (the priests, troop leaders) when they knew or should have known that they were predators.
Among Michaels & Smolak’s lawyers are Boy Scouts (my partner Jan Smolak is an Eagle Scout) and Catholics. We know first-hand that most scout leaders and Church priests are good people. And we are not surprised that there are some bad apples in the mix. With outfits as big as the Church or the Boys Scouts, how could there not be? But we also know that there is absolutely no excuse for either the Church or the Boys Scouts of America covering up abuse within their ranks, or failing to get rid of the bad apples as soon as their deplorable acts became known. For this reason, we applaud plaintiffs’ lawyers around the country who represent the victims of such abuse against both the Church and the Boy Scouts of America. We wish them luck in obtaining fair compensation for their clients.