BOISE, IDAHO – The Idaho Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that 16 men who filed a child sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church can proceed with their claims.
“This is a big victory for child abuse victims, in this case and others,” said Gilion Dumas, the attorney who argued the case at the Idaho Supreme Court on behalf of the men suing the BSA and the LDS Church. “If the Court had ruled the other way, the case would be over.”
Barbara Blaine, a fellow survivor and President of SNAP, Survivors of Those Abused by Priests, remarked, “Thanks to the brave survivors who went to the nth degree to expose the truth and congrats to the steadfast attorneys for never wavering. This will help victims, it will expose dirty secrets and it will help to protect other children. Idaho will stand out as one of the best states in holding organizations accountable.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for Idaho, was before the Idaho Supreme Court at the request of Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill to decide whether the lawsuit was filed on time under Idaho law. The men alleged claims for constructive fraud and it was unclear which Idaho statute of limitations applied to claims for constructive fraud.
The Idaho Supreme Court resolved that issue last week when it issued its decision, holding that a three year statute of limitations applies to the constructive fraud claims, and that the time limit did not start to run until the men discovered the fraud.
The men alleged in their lawsuit that the BSA and the LDS Church deceived them by telling them to trust their Scoutmasters and, at the same time, not telling them about the dangers of pedophile Scoutmasters. The men allege that they did not discover this fraud until recently, when they learned that both organizations knew of the dangers of child molesters targeting Scouts, both as a general problem and regarding specific Scoutmasters within the organizations.
Dumas explained, “The decision by the Idaho Supreme Court means that victims of child sexual abuse in Idaho whose claims may be barred by the regular statute of limitations could have a way to seek justice against organizations that allowed their abuse to happen, such as the Boy Scouts, the LDS Church, or other youth groups.”
The attorney for the Boy Scouts of America warned at oral argument that, if the Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs, the Court would open Pandora’s Box, and that “due process also compels closing Pandora’s Box,” because otherwise, it would “skew . . . the fairness of the entire [justice] system.”
In response, Chief Justice Jim Jones made a simple, but powerful, observation: “I suppose there might be some public policy in favor of leaving Pandora’s Box open. It might cause entities that have youth programs to carefully scrutinize those who are put in contact with the kids.”