New Jersey law could open up Boy Scouts to abuse lawsuits from Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania survivors of alleged sexual abuse decades ago at the hands of Boy Scout leaders could take advantage of a New Jersey law set to take effect later this year that allows them to sue.
A bill signed in May that will take effect Dec. 1 gives sex abuse survivors an extended window to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers.
The state previously had a two-year statute of limitations.
A group of Pennsylvania survivors, working with a law firm based in Washington State focusing on sex abuse, are pursuing the lawsuit under the New Jersey law because the Boy Scouts of America headquarters was located in North Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1954 to 1978, attorneys said.
“We intend to hold the Boy Scouts accountable under this New Jersey law because the organization knew for decades while its headquarters was based in New Jersey, that thousands of Scout leaders had used their position to groom and sexually abuse children,” said Michael Pfau, the Washington-based attorney planning the lawsuit in conjunction with a New Jersey law firm.
The attorneys noted accusations against at least two scout leaders who worked with troops in Pennsylvania.
Among those who plan to be part of the lawsuit is Greg Hunt, 62, of St. Petersburg, Fla. He told the Associated Press he was abused during a 1969 camping trip in Pennsylvania, where he lived with his family.
“It’d be nice to have the Boy Scouts account for their lack of ability to do the right thing,” Hunt told the AP. “It would be nice for me to have the Scouts say we did wrong by you and by these other boys and by your parents.”
The Boy Scouts told the AP that it apologizes to the victims.
“We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward,” the organization said.
In Pennsylvania, victims who were over 18 at the time of the alleged abuse have two years to file a civil lawsuit. Those who were children have 12 years from their 18th birthday.
Under the new law in New Jersey, survivors who were children when the abuse happened can make claims until they turn 55 or for seven years after they realize the abuse caused harm – whichever is later, according to Philadelphia-based radio station WHYY.
Abuse allegations against Boy Scout leaders have been piling up, with the latest coming this month when a group of lawyers revealed that at least 800 men have come forward this year with allegations of abuse decades ago.
In 2012, an Oregon court compelled Boy Scouts of America to release its secret “perversion files,” which included the names of thousands of scout leaders who were quietly dismissed from the organization for allegations of sexual abuse, including hundreds in Pennsylvania.
The eventual New Jersey lawsuit will come on top of at least 24 others filed against the Scouts in New York since Aug. 14, the AP reported, when the state began a one-year window in which victims of child sexual abuse can file lawsuits outside of the statute of limitations.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .