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10 more men sue Montana Boy Scouts ahead of deadline
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10 more men sue Montana Boy Scouts ahead of deadline

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Ten more men have leveled a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts' Montana chapter alleging sexual abuse during their times in troops across the state, the latest in a string of lawsuits filed as the one-year window for claims outside of the statute of limitations closes after Wednesday.

The lawsuit filed in Cascade County District Court, carrying all 10 claims, follows last week's filings by three men who brought individual suits against the Scouts' Montana Council. Two others filed separate lawsuits six months ago. Each alleges abuse at the hands of the adults in charge of their care during time as scouts and claims the Boy Scouts of America was negligent in protecting children within the program.

Andrew Van Arsdale, an attorney with Abused In Scouting, said Monday his organization represents 3,000 men across the country with claims against the Boy Scouts of America. Abused in Scouting represents the 10 men in Monday's filing, as well as 15 other men who are residents of Montana but allege abuse elsewhere, Van Arsdale said.

Dirk Smith, CEO of the Boy Scouts for America Montana Council, did not return an email on Tuesday seeking comment on the lawsuit and how the bankruptcy at the organization's national level will affect the local chapter.

The men included as plaintiffs in the newest lawsuit allege they were abused as troops in Libby, Babb, Great Falls, Helena, Hamilton, Sydney, Glasgow, Forsyth and Missoula. The lawsuit names the accused scoutmasters and supervisors — including John McBride, a former Libby scoutmaster who was arrested in 1974 and convicted of molesting 15 boys — although only the Montana Council is listed as a defendant.

For now, Monday's filing can be seen as a placeholder, Van Arsdale said. Any lawsuits against the local chapters is currently on hold until the Boy Scouts' federal bankruptcy is settled out.

"It's our expectation the bankruptcy process will play out by end of year, 2021," Van Arsdale said. "So by the end of next year, we plan to have this matter totally resolved."

The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February in order to engineer a compensation plan for the several thousand men who say they were molested as scouts by scoutmasters, men who now have a route to recourse as states adjusted statute-of-limitation laws for victims, now adults, to come forward. The 2019 Montana Legislature propped that window open as well after revelations came to light about a Miles City high school trainer who was convicted of abusing dozens of boys over the course of three decades.

Montana's Boy Scouts chapter has not filed for bankruptcy, but is currently protected by the national bankruptcy. At the same time, the Boy Scouts of America Montana Council said in February that, as a linked-but-separate entity, none of its assets, such as Melita Island on Flathead Lake, are a part of the national organization's bankruptcy. Nonprofit tax records show Montana Council's assets totaled more than $27 million at the end of 2018.

Smith, the CEO of the Montana Council, said in an email to the Billings Gazette after the bankruptcy filing in February the state council is "separate and distinct" from the national organization.

Abused In Scouting contends the local and national organizations should be legally considered the same entity.

"Is it a separate corporation? Yes, but is it just the left hand of the what the national BSA’s right hand is? That is also yes," he said.

Montana's window overriding the statute-of-limitations closes after Wednesday, meaning a flurry of lawsuits coming in as clients and attorneys hurry to bolster their filings before the deadline, such as the lawsuit filed Monday. Claims can still be filed within the bankruptcy proceeding for the compensation plan.

"The reason we filed the lawsuit, we want to make sure that Montana Council does something to one, compensate our clients that were hurt in their care, and two, change the practices to protect future children," Van Arsdale said. "If they are unwilling or unable to come to the bankruptcy court in Delaware, then whenever they’re done, we’ll still be able to litigate.”

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