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More cases filed against Boy Scouts Council

What had been a dribble of Child Victims Act lawsuit filings in Chautauqua County has turned into a steady trickle.

Two more child sexual abuse cases have been filed in state Supreme Court in Mayville.

On Wednesday, a plaintiff filed a case against the Allegheny Highlands Council Boy Scouts of America, the Greater Niagara Frontier Council Boy Scouts of America, Portland Congregational Church and Tri County Parish in Brocton after a youth alleged Calvin Fisher, a former scout leader and volunteer, had sexually abused the youth from 1972 to 1978, allegedly starting when the youth was 9 years old, on property owned, operated or controlled by the defendants, including Fisher’s residence and tent.

“The sexual abuse by the defendants’ Scout leader and volunteer, Fisher, occurred during activities that were sponsored by the defendants, or directly as a result of activities that were sponsored by the defendants, including, but not limited to, scout camping trips and scout meetings,” the lawsuit states.

The churches are named as defendants because they obtained charter agreements with the Boy Scout of America that allowed them to operate and control the local scout troops subject to the local council’s rules and regulations.

The second case involves an unnamed youth who filed suit Tuesday in state Supreme Court against the Allegheny Highlands Council and Prosopect Avenue PTO in Salamanca over allegations of abuse in a Salamanca scout troop.

According to the lawsuit, the child was between the ages of 8 and 14 when he was abused by his scout leader, Robert Ebert, from 1976 to 1983.

Earlier this month, the Boy Scouts of America, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, reached an $850 million settlement with more than 60,000 men who have sued the scouts over alleged sexual abuse by adults in scouting. According to the Associated Press, a bankruptcy judge has set a hearing for today on the proposed $850 million settlement, which will give insurance companies and others who oppose it an opportunity to have their say.

The agreement was reached by attorneys for the Boy Scouts, abuse victims, local Boy Scouts councils and lawyers appointed to represent victims who might file future claims.

The Boy Scouts had wanted the hearing to take place on July 20 in front of Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, but at a Wednesday status hearing she pushed the settlement hearing back to later in the month. Attorneys who represent insurance companies, thousands of other abuse victims and local scout sponsoring organizations such as churches said they needed more time to gather information about the agreement and file objections.

The Boy Scouts of America sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020, moving to halt hundreds of lawsuits by men who were molested as youngsters decades ago by scoutmasters or other leaders. The filing was intended to try to reach a global resolution of abuse claims and create a compensation fund for victims.

Attorneys for certain insurance companies that have policies covering the Boy Scouts have accused them of allowing attorneys for abuse victims to rewrite the latest Boy Scouts settlement plan to favor their clients. Attorneys for local sponsoring organizations also say the settlement agreement unfairly strips them of their rights to coverage under insurance polices issued to the Boy Scouts and its local councils.

Attorneys for abuse victims have estimated the insurers’ liability exposure at several billion dollars.

Silverstein also postponed a hearing on whether to approve a disclosure statement that outlines the Boy Scouts’ latest reorganization plan. Approval of the disclosure statement is a necessary step before the reorganization plan can be put to a vote by victims and other creditors.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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