Boy Scouts sexual assault survivors on hold while lawyers feast on billings

Attorneys for sexual assault survivors who endured abuse associated with the Boy Scouts of America say they will not have any real news until after the holidays because 15 insurers and a pair of lawyers who represent about 175 of the more than 82,000 total claimants are appealing near-record $2.4 billion settlement plan.

A judge in Delaware federal bankruptcy court granted in July 2022, final approval for the reorganization plan for the Boy Scouts of America, which is set to pay out more than $2.4 billion in compensation to more than 82,000 sexual abuse survivors.

The Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, a group comprised of more than two dozen law firms representing more than 70,000 of those claimants, called the court’s approval of the plan in July historic for “tens of thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault.”

“The confirmation of this plan makes closure possible and some measure of justice tangible for people whose voices have been silenced for far too long,” said Coalition representatives.

The bankruptcy court found that the BSA’s liability for abuse claims is most likely between $2.4 billion and $3.6 billion, and the judge approved settlements that will provide initial funding of $2.279 billion to survivors.

That amount includes $78 million from the BSA, $515 million from local councils, $30 million from the United Methodist Church, and $1.656 billion from settling insurers.

“The issues on appeal are largely the same issues we have fought over throughout the course of the case: 1) whether the Court can grant certain powers to the Trustee; 2) whether the Court can release third parties from liability; 3) whether the Trust Distribution Procedures are appropriate,” said Britton Whitlock, a legal assistant at Hurley McKenna & Mertz, one of the law firms representing victims.

Distributions are not going to be available for many months. 

This is one of the most complex bankruptcies of all time, involving the national BSA organization, over 200 local BSA councils, and thousands of chartering organizations plus insurance companies with policies that span over decades.

According to USA Today, the 82,000 sexual abuse survivors will each receive less than $10,000 in compensation while the attorneys working the case have billed a staggering $1,725 an hour up to more than $200,000 for legal services and are projected to earn nearly $1 billion.

Attorneys who represent victims are expected to earn a contingency payment ranging from one-third of a potential settlement to as high as 40 percent.

The two law firms that have led the Boy Scouts’ legal defense team, White & Case LLP and Sidley Austen LLP, together have billed the nonprofit organization more than $26 million.

Screening claims and coordinating payouts requires other specialized teams, with costs expected to reach about $180 million.

The Coalition for Abused Scouts for Justice, which says it represents 63,000 survivors, stands to receive $950,000 a month in fees and a lump sum payment of $10.5 million.

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