A jury in Portland Oregon has awarded former Boy Scout Kerry Lewis $18.5 million in punitive damages in a landmark sexual abuse case against the Boy Scouts of America.
The jury ruled on April 13, finding the organization negligent and subsequently awarded Lewis $1.4 million in compensatory damages for the repeated sexual abuse he suffered as a child during the 1980s.
Although former Scout leader Timur Dykes had been removed as a Scout master, he was permitted to continue contact with the boys as a volunteer.
During the trial, Lewis’ attorneys introduced more than 1,000 files that had been archived at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. The secret "perversion files" were kept from 1965 to 1984, documenting the names of suspected child molesters.
The files detailed many incidents throughout the country where scout leaders and volunteers were permitted to continue contact with the children, even after sexual abuse complaints had been filed, according to the New York Times.
"They hid the problem," Paul Mones, an attorney for the plaintiff, told the jury during closing arguments. "…and by hiding the problem, more abuse happened."
The punitive phase began Tuesday, and Lewis’ attorneys were seeking $25 million in punitive damages. The plaintiff’s lawyers told jurors that "the organization should be punished for failing to use those files to fashion an extensive program to educate parents, Scout leaders, volunteers and the Scouts themselves about the risk of sex abuse."
The New York Times, along with other news organizations, is taking legal action to gain access to the secret files. A spokesperson for Boys Scouts of America stated via an email message that the files are being kept private to protect accusers, to protect the privacy of the victims, and to guard against liability of those who may have been falsely accused.
Watch Kerry Lewis and his attorneys Kelly Clark and Paul Mones in the video below.
In the jury’s decision on April 13, it found the Boy Scouts of America 60% negligent, the Cascade Pacific Council, an organization that oversees troops in the area, 15% negligent; and the LDS Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, 25% negligent. The Church sponsors many scout troops including the one involved in this lawsuit.