Almost 90,000 sexual abuse claims had been filed against the Boy Scouts of America as the Monday deadline approached for submitting claims in.
The 88,500 count far exceeded initial projections from lawyers across the nation who have been signing up clients since the organization filed for bankruptcy. The cases reflect decades-old claims alleging sex abuse by Scout leaders.
"The number of claims is mind-boggling," said lawyer Paul Mones, who won a $19.9 million sex abuse verdict against the Boy Scouts in Oregon a decade ago. "It's chilling in terms of the amount of horror that was experienced."
Mones said the number of claims later climbed to 95,000, according to Agence France-Presse.
"It's by far the largest sexual abuse scandal in the U.S.," Moses told AFP, adding that scouting has long offered a "perfect petri dish" for pedophiles: "boys have taken an oath of loyalty, they are away from their parents, in the wilderness."
The Boy Scouts said in a statement that, "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. We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain."
The bankruptcy court proceedings 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 Boy Scouts are expected to contribute a substantial portion of its assets to the fund.
The Boy Scouts said it "intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation."
"The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching," the organization added. "We are deeply sorry."
Andrew Van Arsdale, a California lawyer with a network called Abused in Scouting, said the network previously signed up about 16,000 claimants. He said that number doubled after the Boy Scouts launched an advertising campaign in August to notify victims that they had until Monday 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.
Most of the pending sex abuse claims date to the 1960s, '70s and '80s, before the Boy Scouts adopted criminal background checks, abuse prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities.
Among the contentious issues still to be addressed in the bankruptcy case is how much the Boy Scouts' local councils must contribute to the fund. The national organization said in its bankruptcy filing that the councils are separate legal entities and should not be included as debtors.
Under the terms of the case, no additional sex abuse claims can be filed against the Boy Scouts after Monday. However, Seattle attorney Jason Amala, part of a legal team representing more than 1,000 claimants, said new claims still could filed against local councils in states such as New York, New Jersey and California.
Some of the claims may be hard to verify, if they involve abuse allegations against volunteer Scout leaders whose names don't appear in official rosters from long ago, Mones said.
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