The Boy Scouts of America have been ordered to pay a sexual abuse victim $18.5 million in punitive damages by an Oregon jury. Earlier this month, the same jury had awarded the plaintiff, 38-year-old Kerry Lewis, $1.4 million in economic damages.
Lewis is among six men suing the Boy Scouts over allegations of sexual abuse. All of the men say they were abused in the 1980s at the hands of Assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes thirty years ago. In his lawsuit, Lewis blamed the Boy Scouts of America, its local body, the Portland-based Cascade Pacific Council, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – the troop’s sponsor – for failing to protect him from Dykes.
In 1983, Dykes told a bishop from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he had molested 17 boy scouts, including Lewis. He was eventually convicted of various abused charges and spent time in prison. Lewis’ attorneys argued that the Boy Scouts organization was reckless for allowing Dykes to continue to associate with young scouts even after his admission to the bishop.
According to The New York Times, the verdict was by far the largest ever against the Scouts in a jury trial. The jury could have ordered the Scouts to pay up to $25 million. According to the Times, the majority of abuse cases involving the Scouts have ended in private settlements, and it is unknown how much the group has paid to victims in total.
As we reported previously, a key part of Lewis’ case was the introduction as evidence of more than 1,000 secret files kept by the Boy Scouts of America at the group’s national headquarters from 1965 to mid-1984. Nicknamed the “perversion files, the Boy Scouts contended that the files were used to weed out potential child molesters. But Lewis’ attorneys argued the information should not have been kept from parents.
The jury in Lewis’ case also found that the Cascade Pacific Council and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints negligent. Of the $1.4 million economic damage award, the Boy Scouts of America is responsible for 60 percent, or $840,000. The Council must pay $210,000. The church had already settled with Lewis, and paid him $350,000.