Court Tosses Abuse Claims by Former Scout
(CN) - A federal judge threw out claims that the Boy Scouts and a Pennsylvania church let scoutmasters sexually abuse a teenage scout in the 1960s.
The 59-year-old Floridian identified in court documents as John Doe sued the East Hills Moravian Church Inc., of Bethlehem, Pa.; the New Jersey-headquartered Boy Scouts of America Inc. and its Allentown, Pa.-based Minsi Trails Council Inc.; as well as Scoutmaster Mike Jacobs and Assistant Scoutmaster Don Levine, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last year.
The scoutmasters allegedly sexually abused and molested Doe dozens of times during his teenage years in Pennsylvania, the complaint says.
The plaintiff alleges defendants "concealed their respective and sometime overlapping institutional child abuse problem for the purpose and with the result of preventing abuse survivors from understanding their own abuse and defendants' role in it and thereby delay and prevent victims, including plaintiff, from filing suit."
The complaint asserts state law claims for sexual abuse, emotional distress, fraud by omission, constructive fraud and a claim under the New Jersey Child Sexual Abuse Act.
The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint as time-barred by the two-year statute of limitations and for failure to state a claim.
Doe countered that "PTSD, child abuse syndrome, compartmentalization, avoidance, dissociative amnesia or denial" kept him from discovering the causal relationship between the alleged abuse and the defendants' roles ... until 2011, when the Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts to release certain "secret perversion files."
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl dismissed the complaint last week, holding the alleged sexual assaults were "immediately discoverable."
"Plaintiff does not allege that he was not aware that the abuse was occurring at the time it was occurring or that he did not know the identity of the perpetrators," Schmehl wrote. "The fact that plaintiff may hay have later suffered a mental capacity to remember the abuse is irrelevant. It is also irrelevant that plaintiff did not become aware that he may have a cause of action against the defendants until 2011. As a result, the court finds that reasonable minds could not differ that plaintiff was aware of his injury and its cause at the time of the injury itself. As a result, the court finds that the discovery rule does not apply as a matter of law."
The fraudulent concealment doctrine does not apply either, the ruling states.
"Plaintiff alleges that the Boy Scout defendants 'were aware or should have been aware of the pedophilia threat in any Boy Scout Troop between 1966 and 1969, having secreted the collections of thousands of Ineligible Volunteers of Perversion files of Scoutmasters,'" Schmehl wrote. "Such a general allegation of concealment, without any additional affirmative act of concealment, has been held by Pennsylvania courts not to constitute fraudulent concealment for the purpose of tolling the statute of limitations."
The judge dismissed Doe's claims as time-barred."Since, according to plaintiff's own allegations, the latest assault on plaintiff would have taken place in 1969 when plaintiff was 15 years old, plaintiff had until 1971 to assert claims against the defendants," Schmehl wrote. "Since plaintiff did not commence suit until 2012, some 40 years later, plaintiff's causes of action are time-barred by Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations."