Kerry Lewis was repeatedly molested
A JURY has ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay record punitive damages of $18.5m (£12m) to a man who was sexually abused by a former assistant scoutmaster more than 25 years ago.
Following the verdict Kerry Lewis, 37, said the decision to sue and testify in open court at the trial in Portland, Oregon, had been “very scary”.
The jury heard that when he was 11 or 12 years old, Lewis was repeatedly abused by Timur Dykes, the scoutmaster. Dykes had already admitted to a Scouts official that he had molested 17 other boys. Under Oregon law Lewis, also awarded $1.4m compensatory damages, must hand 60% ($11m) of the punitive award to the state.
Lawyers for Lewis told the six-week trial that because of his ordeal he had suffered from personality problems including drug abuse and difficulties in forming relationships.
The case is particularly damaging to the Boy Scouts of America, which is unrelated to the British organisation, because it drew attention to “perversion files” that it keeps at its headquarters in Texas.
Lawyers for Lewis said the files, more than 1,000 of which were shown to the court but kept secret from the press and public, detailed many cases in which volunteers were allowed to continue working with children even after the Scouts had received complaints that they were abusers.
Media organisations are demanding access to the files, which could produce a flood of new court cases. Six other former scouts abused by Dykes are already suing.
The Scouts, a billion-dollar corporation in the US, declined to comment on the Lewis case, pending an appeal. A statement on its website said it was always looking for ways to improve youth protection.
Lewis said the verdict showed “big corporations can’t be above the law”.
April 25, 2010
John Harlow in Los Angeles
Source: The Sunday Times