The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is asking a Santa Barbara court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a local family over a 2007 molestation by a Scout volunteer.
This sets the stage for a possible California landmark ruling if Superior Court Judge Donna Geck refuses to dismiss the case and rejects the BSA’s long-held position that it has no control over local Scout councils, troops, or volunteers and isn’t responsible for their actions.
A February 14 Superior Court hearing is scheduled in the family’s 2010 suit against the BSA, Los Padres Scout Council, and volunteer Al Stein. Santa Barbara attorney Tim Hale, representing the family of the boy, then 13, rejects the BSA argument, citing recent litigation he says exposes “the truth of BSA’s total control of Scouting.
“For over half a century BSA has successfully made this ‘no control’ argument in California courts, and evaded liability and financial exposure for the acts of its agents,” Hale said in a court filing. But that could end with this case.
If Judge Geck rejects the BSA motion to dismiss, a trial date is expected to be set. BSA would surely appeal her decision, however.
What’s at stake here is not guilt or innocence — Stein admitted the molestation several years ago — but that BSA could face punitive damages on grounds that it ignored Stein’s prior deviant behavior and a similar incident involving another scout months earlier. That, as well as “numerous red flags” involving Stein’s behavior should have resulted in his dismissal as a volunteer, Hale said.
While working at a Scout Christmas tree lot, Stein, a 400-pound young adult, pushed the boy against a tree, pulled his pants down, and fondled his exposed penis, Hale said. Stein pleaded no contest, served a prison term, registered as a sex offender, and is now believed living elsewhere in California on probation.