The number far exceeds the initial projections of lawyers across the United States who have been signing up clients since the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection in February in the face of hundreds of lawsuits alleging decades-old sex abuse by Scout leaders.
“We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” the Boy Scouts said in a statement. “We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.”
A few hours before the 5 p.m. EST deadline, the number of claims totaled 88,500, lawyers said.
Eventually, the proceedings in federal bankruptcy court will lead to the creation of a compensation fund to pay out settlements to abuse survivors whose claims are upheld.
The potential size of the fund is not yet known and will be the subject of complex negotiations. The national organization is expected to contribute a substantial portion of its assets, which include financial investments and real estate. The Boy Scouts’ insurers also will be contributing, as will the Boy Scouts’ roughly 260 local councils and companies that insured them in the past.
Andrew Van Arsdale, a lawyer with a network called Abused in Scouting, said it has signed up about 16,000 claimants. He said that number doubled after the Boy Scouts, under the supervision of a bankruptcy judge, launched a nationwide advertising campaign on Aug. 31 to notify victims that they had until Nov. 16 to seek compensation.
“They spent millions trying to encourage people to come forward,” Van Arsdale said. “Now, the question is whether they can make good on their commitment.”
The Boy Scouts said it “intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation."