As we recently reported, United Methodist leaders have reached a settlement in the pending bankruptcy proceedings of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The proposed settlement, which must be approved by the court, includes the following provisions:
- United Methodists will raise and contribute $30 million over time to a settlement fund to compensate abuse survivors;
- All claims of sexual abuse involving scouting programs sponsored by Methodist churches or other entities will be resolved without further liability.
Though we are working towards a resolution in the bankruptcy court of all abuse claims involving United Methodist churches, several lawsuits claiming abuse were filed in December 2021 naming the North Carolina Conference and United Methodist churches within our Conference as defendants. The timing of these lawsuits coincides with the December 31, 2021 expiration of a North Carolina law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims and allowed survivors of any age to file suit. These claimants felt they needed to file before the moratorium expired.
We believe it is likely that, in each of the recently filed cases, the BSA will file a notice that the case is subject to the “automatic stay” in the bankruptcy, which means no further proceedings can take place until the bankruptcy is fully resolved and the stay is “lifted.” If the proposed settlement involving the BSA and all of the United Methodist organizations is approved and accepted by the bankruptcy court, then all of these cases ultimately should be dismissed, and the plaintiffs will instead be allowed to pursue their claims through a special claims procedure set up by the bankruptcy court.
Meanwhile, however, if your church is served with a lawsuit asserting abuse allegations, you will need to take the following steps:
1. Begin steps to retain legal counsel to represent the church in connection with the lawsuit and take particular note of the deadline for responding.
2. Please contact us at email@example.com to let us know you have been served with the lawsuit.
3. Research your insurance provider for the dates identified in the suit when the alleged abuse occurred. If the provider can be found, notify the insurance company of this suit and send them a copy of the filing.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Conference BSA Leadership Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will forward your questions and concerns to our Conference Chancellor, Eric Stevens, for response as needed.