A lawsuit brought against the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of 16 former scouts is being allowed to proceed after a ruling made by the Illinois Appellate Court. The 16 boys represented in the lawsuit are all adults currently, but were among over 100 children molested by Thomas Hacker, who was the leader of Boy Scout Troop 1600 at the St. Louis de Montfort Church in Oak Lawn. The Boy Scouts of America and the Chicago Area Council have both been named as defendants in the case for their failure to properly vet the Boy Scout leader before allowing him to supervise minors.
Thomas Hacker Considered one of the Most Notorious Sex Offenders in Scout History
Thomas Hacker is suspected to have abused over 100 boys in the 1980s and most of these molestations are believed to have occurred during his tenure as a Boy Scout Troop leader. He first volunteered for the organization as a merit badge counselor and worked his way up to the position of Scoutmaster. The plaintiffs allege that the organization did not conduct background checks on Hacker prior to placing him in a leadership position and such vetting would have revealed his felony conviction in 1970 for abusing a child in Indiana.
In 1989, Hacker was convicted of five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault against three scouts and is still serving time in the Illinois Department of Corrections. At that time, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services linked him to the molestation of 34 boy scouts. The plaintiffs argue that Hacker used his position as Scoutmaster— and later as committee chairman— to gain access to more boys so that he could continue his nefarious practices.
Boy Scouts Allowed Numerous Pedophiles into Leadership Positions
This case stems from the recent admission that the Boy Scouts of America involved hundreds of pedophiles in troop leadership positions over history. Hacker’s case gained attention as the most severe case of systematic abuse and alerted the world to the widespread practice of ignoring complaints by children and failing to vet individuals applying for supervising roles. In the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, it is alleged that there were thousands of complaints brought to the Boy Scouts of America alleging abuse by leaders and that these complaints were ignored.
Had the Boy Scouts of America responded to the complaints, conducted investigations when appropriate, and vetted leaders by running background checks, many of the pedophiles allowed access to victims would have been caught long before they could have done any harm.
Statute of Limitations Cited in Challenge
The Boy Scouts of America attempted to have the case dismissed, citing the statute of limitations which states that sex abuse victims have two years from their eighteenth birthdays to file lawsuits against their abusers. Since those filing lawsuits were abused in the 1980s, the BSA argued that the statute of limitations had long passed, but the Court ruled against the motion. Even though the lawsuits were not filed until 2012 and 2013, the Circuit Court of Cook County allowed the cases to proceed and the Illinois Appellate Court backed the rulings, stating that a reasonable jury wouldn’t have any reason to suspect any wrongdoing by the Boy Scouts of America prior to the release of the Ineligible Volunteer Files in 2012.
After the files were made public, the victims came forward to hold the Boy Scouts of America and Chicago Area Council accountable for their failure to properly investigate the background of the adults involved in their program. Since this failure resulted in the continued abuse of thousands of children, the plaintiffs believe that the Boy Scouts of America should be liable for damages.