PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - "You will learn that $25 million means different things to different people," the plaintiff's attorney began, in the first day of the punitive damages phase of a trial in which the jury found the Boy Scouts of America negligent in allowing an assistant scoutmaster to sexually abuse a boy in the 1980s. Attorney Kelly Clark is demanding $25 million in punitive damages for his client.
Clark continued, "BSA [the Boy Scouts of America] is a corporation worth $929 million, with yearly revenues of $400 million; monthly revenue of $35 million; branded merchandise sales of $150 million; unrestricted liquid assets of $400 million; and an annual change in asset value of $34 million. The Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca makes $1.2 million and their art collection alone is worth $45 million."
Clark was referring to the Boy Scouts' collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, icons of the virtues of scouting life.
"What we're requesting is $25 million to get the message across to this billion-dollar corporation," Clark said. "The amount we are asking for is less than one year of investment income, less than one month's revenue."
Clark asked the jury, "Have they accepted responsibility? No. Look at their statement made within a day after your verdict."
Defense attorney Charles Smith objected, and asked that the jury be cleared from the court.
After Multnomah County Judge John Wittmayer sent the jury out, Smith said that the statement Clark intended to read had no probative value and was meant to inflame the jury.
Clark countered that the fact that despite the jury verdict, the Scouts continued to deny responsibility, was directly relevant to how high the damages would have to be to make them accept their responsibility and change their policies.
Judge Wittmayer agreed with Clark that the statement was relevant. He rather testily told Smith, "The BSA invited this response by posting a statement on their Web site commenting on an ongoing trial."
Late last week the judge asked Smith to ask his clients to take down the statement, which they did.
After the jury returned Clark continued to read from the statement: "'We are gravely disappointed with the verdict ... Based on the standard of care of that time, the BSA believes it acted responsibly and that the evidence presented during the trial does not justify the verdict.'
"Have they apologized? Quite the opposite, as their statement suggests. They see it as society's problem, not theirs.
"Have they acknowledged a fundamental problem? No. They continue to say that the safety of children in their care is not in question.
"Have they done everything possible to address the problem? No. They do not require mandatory child abuse training. They have not conditioned charter renewals on training. They have performed no analysis on the lessons to be learned from the Ineligible Volunteer files. To this day they have not performed an analysis to see how to make the scouts safer."
The first witness for the plaintiff was Serena Morones, a forensic accountant and expert in corporate valuations, who testified to the wealth of the Boy Scouts, which Clark listed in his opening remarks. She said the Scouts control total assets of $929 million, including $47 million in cash, an investment portfolio worth $633 million, and real estate booked at an original cost of $100 million.