Eight men were sexually abused when they were Boy Scouts in Hawaii in the 1960s and 1970s, they alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday as the state’s window closed on allowing child sex abuse claims that would have been barred under a statute of limitations.
Various states and Washington, D.C., extended or suspended statute of limitations to allow child sex abuse claims stretching back decades. In Hawaii, a window for filing old claims was first opened in 2012. It was reopened in 2018 and closed Friday.
The lawsuit by the eight men now living in Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington state also comes while attorneys urge potential victims to come forward as Boy Scouts of America works on its bankruptcy plan.
The Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection in February in an effort to halt hundreds of individual lawsuits and create a huge compensation fund for men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders.
The Scouts resorted to Chapter 11 in hopes of surviving a barrage of lawsuits, many of them made possible by changes in state laws to allow people to sue over long-ago sexual abuse.
Named as a defendant in the Hawaii lawsuit is the Boy Scouts’ Aloha Council.
While the bankruptcy proceedings have halted lawsuits against Boy Scouts of America, the windows allow for filing claims against local councils and other sponsoring organizations, said Stewart Eisenberg, one of the attorneys representing the eight men.
“Hawaii is one of the first to close their windows,” he said. States that have active windows include California, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Montana.
The Hawaii lawsuit filed in state court will likely be put on hold and its unclear whether it will be transferred to bankruptcy court, Eisenberg said.
“It’s important because the councils, we believe, need to be held to account, because in many instances they were the ones that were directly responsible for hiring the perpetrator, putting him in a position where he could gain access to kids in their programs, at their scout camps and so on and so forth,” said Tim Kosnoff, another attorney representing the men.
The two lawyers are part of AbusedinScouting, a consortium of law firms representing victims.
Aloha Council representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment after the lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon.
Among the allegations, a California man says he was about 10 when an assistant scoutmaster abused him during camping trips on Oahu. The assistant scoutmaster “would tell ghost stories, and many of the scouts would become very scared,” and the assistant scoutmaster would use that fear to visit scouts in their tents and abuse them, the lawsuit said.
Another California plaintiff said he was about 14 around 1976 when a cook “held a knife to his throat in the shower while forcing him to comply with his sexual demands” during a five-week Boy Scouts camping trip on the Big Island, according to the lawsuit.
A deadline for bringing claims in the bankruptcy proceedings is expected in the fall, Kosnoff said.
Attorneys are trying to “get out the word so people know that they need to come forward and participate in the bankruptcy proceedings, whether or not they live in a state that has a window,” Eisenberg said. “So we have to make it … as clear as possible to those that are out there who have been abused and are either afraid to come forward or reticent or hesitant, that now is the time.”