FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — At least six Arkansans have joined a national lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, claiming sexual abuse by a scout leader.
One of those victims includes a Fayetteville man, suing the Boys Scouts of America and Quapaw Area Council Incorporated of the Boy Scouts of America.
The lawsuit claims sexual abuse by Scout Leader Samuel C. Otts.
Otts led Troop 16 and met at the Salvation Army in Hot Springs in approximately 1980, the lawsuit says.
It claims he engaged in various sexual acts with the victim who was 9 or 10 years old at the time.
Attorney Joshua Gillispie of Green & Gillispie is representing six victims from the same troop, all claiming sexual abuse by Otts. The six lawsuits were filed separately.
All of the alleged abuse occurred in Hot Springs.
Otts is now deceased, according to Gillispie.
“The abuse occurred during Scouting-related meetings, events, outings, and over-night excursion,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendants knew by at least 1977 that Otts had sexually abused at least one other boy as a Scout Leader in Georgia.”
The lawsuit was filed in November 2019 in the Circuit Court of Washington County. It was moved to federal court Tuesday (Feb. 18).
It seeks damages for negligence, negligent hiring, supervision and retention, fraud, and fraudulent concealment.
The lawsuit alleges Otts has been previously reported to Boys Scouts of America for sexually abusing boys as a Scout Leader in Georgia, and “exhibited behaviors known by BSA to indicate that Otts was a sexual predator who was intentionally using Scouting to gain access to boys, win their trust and admiration, and abuse them.”
Gillispie says his Fayetteville client decided to file the lawsuit in December 2018, “when he first learned of the existence of the perversion file and that Defendants had known Otts was dangerous before allowing him access to [victim].”
The victim claims pain of mind and body, severe and permanent emotional distress and mental anguish, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation, shame, and psychological injuries.
The lawsuit claims “perversion files” are a “red flag” system that identifies scout leaders considered “ineligible” to hold leadership positions, “which contained proof that BSA knew for a certainty that Otts was a pedophile prior to his being accepted as a scout leader in Arkansas.”
In a response to the lawsuit, Boy Scouts of America says it has kept records of individuals who did not meet the standards of membership and leadership of the organization, and has used the records to exclude individuals from membership.
Those records are referred to as the volunteer screening database, according to Stuart Miller of Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard P.L.L.C.
Boy Scouts of America denied the allegations of abuse.
However, the organization did acknowledge that information on possible prior abuse by Otts was publicly available “by 2012 at the latest,” and, “Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and should be dismissed as a matter of law.”
Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States.
On Tuesday (Feb. 18), Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy amid hundreds of sex abuse claims.
A “Nationwide Transfer Motion” is consolidating pending abuse actions into the Delaware District Court, according to documents submitted by Miller.
The organization is hoping to compensate the thousands of victims claiming they were harmed by scout leaders decades ago.
Approximately 90% of pending and asserted abuse claims against the BSA relate to abuse that occurred more than 30 years ago.