Boy Scout Victim Files Sexual Abuse Claim After Reviewing Secret Files

An Illinois man recently filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County against his former Boy Scout troopmaster and the Boy Scouts of America alleging that he was sexually abused by Thomas Hacker in 1985 when he was 10 years old.  The plaintiff went online and reviewed the once secret "perversion files" after the Boy Scouts of America were ordered to release the files in an unrelated case from Oregon.  The plaintiff claimed that he "compartmentalized" the memories of abuse, making him unable to file suit until now.  Without such an allegation, a court would likely find that the plaintiff's claim was untimely due to the statute of limitations.  The plaintiff is now married with a family.  The former scoutmaster, Hacker, is serving a 100 year prison sentence for sexual molestation.  The former troopmaster told a psychiatrist that he had sexually abused more than 100 boys.  A state agency concluded that he had sexually molested 34 victims in Illinois.  While it is expected that this litigation may take time to resolve, other claims involving Hacker settled for substantial sums of money.

Illinois Facebook Bill Causes Problems For Management Side Attorneys

As of January 1, 2013, it will be unlawful for an employer to demand that an employee turn over social network passwords or to demand access to their accounts.  Known as the "Facebook bill," employment attorneys who represent companies are complaining that it will hinder their ability to monitor claims of sexual harassment or otherwise defend wrongful termination or discrimination claims.  Before an aggrieved employee can call out their employer on the issue, the employee will have to contact the Department of Labor.  We would expect that prosecution of employers for violations will be very slow.

EEOC Lawsuits Hit Record 20 Year Low

Despite a troubled economy, and counter to conventional wisdom, the federal agency which monitors workplace discrimination, the EEOC, reported that it filed 122 lawsuits nationally for its fiscal year ended September 30.  This figure is far less than usual.  The agency prosecutes workplace violations involving age, race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, sexual harassment, retaliation, and disability discrimination.  The EEOC does not have jurisdiction to prosecute claims that arise under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.  Apparently, the agency is focusing on systemic or widespread areas of discrimination, as opposed to pursuing single instances of civil rights violations.  Since 1992, except for one year, the EEOC has filed at least 200 lawsuits.  According to the EEOC's website, it filed an average of 333 lawsuits annually since that time.  Regardless, this number is a fraction of the charges of the total number of charges of employment discrimination filed annually.  For fiscal year 2011, 6,098 charges of employment discrimination were filed in Illinois alone.  Thus, most of the time, aggrieved employees need private attorneys to prosecute their employment discrimination claims on their behalf in court.

Local Boy Scout Victim Describes Fear Pain and Shame

This blog recently detailed the release of secret files maintained by the Boy Scouts of America, which were also known as the "perversion files."  The files contained information regarding the sexual abuse perpetrated by scout leaders upon young scouts.  A recently lawsuit by a former scout in DuPage County against the Boy Scouts claims that he was sexually molested, causing him to quit the troop.  The man, now 43, claims that he was repeatedly sexually assaulted.  The man filed suit in 2011, claiming that the organization was negligent in supervising the scoutmaster.  The man in the DuPage County case claims that he repressed the memories of the abuse until 2010.  Recent case law from the Illinois Supreme Court would bar the claim due to the statute of limitations unless the man could demonstrate that the Boy Scouts acted fraudulently, for instance in hiding the scoutmaster's background, or if he repressed or suppressed the memories of sexual molestation.  The scoutmaster identified in the lawsuit, Gary L. Monroe, was prosecuted in a similar sexual abuse case, for which he is serving prison time in Wisconsin.  In 1989, Monroe was required to register as a sex offender in Illinois.  We expect that many more local claims will be filed against the Boy Scouts of America.

Boy Scout Files Demonstrate 39 Alleged Cases of Sexual Abuse in Chicago Area

We previously reported on this blog that the Los Angeles Times obtained the "perversion files" which the Boy Scouts of America maintained regarding alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by scoutmasters upon young scouts.  The files were released pursuant to an order of the Oregon Supreme Court from a 2010 lawsuit filed against the Boy Scouts alleging sexual abuse.  A more localized analysis of those files demonstrates that in the Chicago area, there were 39 such cases of alleged sexual molestation.  Local files show that after scouting officials were notified of potential sexual abuse claims, they let the accused volunteers leave.  In one case involving a Cicero victim, the volunteer scoutmaster was allowed to "resign," and the Boy Scouts did not contact the police.  The files also show that in instances where the scoutmaster was accused of sexual abuse, the Boy Scouts let the leader continue to volunteer.  In one case, a scout leader was accused by seven boys of sexual abuse.  The organization concluded that the boys may have provoked the scoutmaster's actions, but nonetheless, temporarily banned the leader from volunteering.  A number of years later, however, the Boy Scouts let the scoutmaster back in 1981 in the Spring Grove area.  In 1984, he was accused of having sexual contact with a boy.  The volunteer was accused in another case of sexual abuse and was convicted.  He has since died.

Boy Scout Files Show History of Sexual Abuse

The Los Angeles Times obtained 3,100 files regarding evidence of sexual abuse perpetrated by scoutmasters while they were affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.  The files were provided by a Seattle attorney who has repeatedly sued the Boy Scouts for sexual molestation.  The files were opened from 1947 and 2005, and had documentation concerning biographical data, legal records, letters and scouts' accounts of alleged sexual abuse.  It was also learned that the Boy Scouts destroyed an unknown number of files over the years.  The case files demonstrated that the instances of alleged sexual abuse arose where the scoutmaster was left alone with boys - this is a practice that the Boy Scouts have long discouraged and officially prohibited since 1987.  A significant number of the cases arose outside of official scouting activities.  In more than 50 situations, Scoutmasters abused more than 10 boys before they were expelled.  According to certain sources, the Boy Scouts were advised in the 1990s to look for patterns of sexual abuse, but the recommendation was ignored.  We expect that due to the release of these files, more claims alleging sexual molestation will be filed against the Boy Scouts.

Mayor Emanuel Attempts to Expand City Whistleblower Ordinance

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has drafted an expansion of the current City of Chicago ordinance prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers.  Since it was first enacted in 2004, the law only protected city employees from being retaliated against for making complaints about corruption.  Under the new proposal, the law would cover anyone who applied for a city permit, license, certification, financial benefit, city service, or employment and suffered retaliation for exposing wrongdoing.  The remedies for proving a violation of the law include reinstatement, an award of double backpay, and restoration of lost seniority rights.  There are certain limitations under the ordinance, however.  An aggrieved individual must file a claim notice within 30 days, and then file suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County within 6 months if the claim did not resolve.  The state of Illinois also has protection for whistleblowers.

Illinois Supreme Court Voids Judgment Against Railroad

The Illinois Supreme Court reversed a $3.9 million personal injury judgment against several railroad companies last week, holding that they cannot be held liable for injuries that the plaintiff sustained after he attempted to jump onto a moving train.  In the opinion, the high court reasoned that a moving train represents an "obvious danger" that children understand that could harm them.  The supreme court overturned the appellate court's decision to affirm the jury verdict in the case.  The case arose when, in 2003, 12 year old Dominic Choate tried to impress his friends by jumping onto a moving train.  When he fell, a train wheel severed part of his foot.  Later, a surgeon was required to amputate his leg below the knee.  A Cook County jury awarded him $6.9 million in damages, but reduced the award 40% due to the boy's comparative negligence.  The court noted that Choate ignored fences and warning signs near the tracks.  This will likely mean the end of that litigation.

Federal Court Holds End of Life Trip Protected Under Family and Medical Leave Act

The Hollander Law Offices was successful in resisting a summary judgment motion involving a case of first impression within the federal court of the Seventh Circuit involving an issue with the Family and Medical Leave Act, (FMLA). Sarah Ballard, who was suffering from end-stage congestive heart failure, was given a trip to Las Vegas by a charitable group.  Her daughter, Beverly, an employee of the Chicago Park District, accompanied her on the vacation.  Ms. Ballard claimed that she asked her supervisor about a month before the trip to use leave pursuant to the FMLA, so that she could go with her mother.  Ms. Ballard faxed a request to him a few weeks later when the supervisor failed to acknowledge her request.  The supervisor denied that the conversation took place, and then denied her request on the mistaken belief that she was seeking personal time off.  Ms. Ballard claims that she tried to reach the supervisor several times by phone.  She went on the trip and was assured that everything would be OK assuming that she completed the paperwork.  The Park District then terminated her employment for being absent from work.  Ms. Ballard filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that her FMLA rights were interfered with.  The Park District filed papers to have her claim dismissed.  The FMLA allows employees to take a maximum of twelve weeks per year to "care for" a family member or close relative who is seriously ill.  Federal District Court Judge Edmond Chang denied the Park District's Motion, noting that Sarah Ballard suffered from a covered serious health condition and further reasoned that the FMLA does not set narrow restrictions on the type of care which the employee provides.  The Court observed that Ms. Ballard routinely provided physical care to her at home, including, but not limited to, providing meals, removing fluids from her heart, and giving her insulin shots.  The Court noted that the employee does not have to directly administer medical treatment and that Ms. Ballard provided care to her when they went to Las Vegas.  Attorney Paul Ryan stated that his client is pleased with the Court's ruling.  The Park District has since filed papers seeking an immediate appeal on this issue to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Priest Sentenced to Three to Six Years In Prison For Enabling Sexual Abuse

Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced to a prison term of three to six years for child endangerment for failing to remove priests from ministry who engaged in sexual abuse.  The judge said that Lynn ignored warning signs while "monsters in clerical garb" sexually assaulted children.  Many of the courtroom seats were occupied by relatives of a former northeast Philadelphia altar boy who was the principal victim in the case.  The man, now in his 20s, was sexually molested by a priest, Edward Avery, whom Lynn allowed to stay in ministry.  The prosecutors sought a stiffer sentence than was handed down.