The Oregonian yesterday (Hat tip to Just at The Wasp!) ran an article of the latest round of sexual abuse litigation to hit the Oregon courts, by the same attorney and law firm (surprise surprise, and which isn’t at all bashful about grandstanding publicly about it) which brought the last round (at least in Oregon). Update: 7:30 p.m. The Church’s official response to the Oregon News reports of today: IRRESPONSIBLE (and frankly I agree).
From the Oregonian:
Six Portland men sued the Mormon church and the Boy Scouts of America today, seeking $25 million for alleged sexual abuse by a church and Scout leader in the 1980s.
The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, contends that Timur Van Dykes, 51, a registered sex offender who lives in Southwest Portland, molested Boy Scouts in Troop 719, which was supervised by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The lawsuit does not name Dykes as a defendant.
Two of the men sued the Scouts earlier this year. They dropped their previous case and refiled along with the four new plaintiffs. The new case alleges that the Mormon church discovered in 1981 or 1982 that Dykes had molested a Scout and that both the church and Boy Scouts created a foreseeable risk of further abuse.
The lawsuit contends that after learning of abuse, the organizations failed to thoroughly investigate and interrogate Dykes, failed to report abuse to law enforcement and failed to provide mental health services to victims.
Dykes has long been a source of legal troubles for the Boy Scouts in Oregon. Three lawsuits alleging abuse filed in 1987 resulted in undisclosed settlements.
Dykes, who left prison in 2005, declined to discuss the lawsuit. “Nothing I say will make any difference,” he said.
The article links to an actual copy of the suit, which I have also uploaded here: Complaint
The Deseret News (again Hat Tip Justin at The Wasp) ran an article earlier in the year about the genesis of this particular litigation:
PORTLAND, Ore. — Two brothers filed a $6.5 million lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America on Monday, alleging they were sexually abused as children in the 1980s by a LDS “home teacher” who was also a Boy Scout leader.
The lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges the church and the Boy Scouts were responsible because Timur Dykes was an authorized representative of the groups.
It also claims the church failed to report an abuse allegation against a third brother that could have led authorities to other victims — a claim the church denied.
Dykes was convicted of child sexual abuse “on several different occasions,” according to the lawsuit filed by Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who has represented victims of alleged abuse by Roman Catholic priests.
Clark provided a list indicating Dykes had been convicted in 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1994.
Dykes declined to confirm those convictions. But he said he was in prison from 1993 to 2002.
He declined further comment but said “somebody has made a mistake,” a reference to the lawsuit.
Dykes was convicted in 1994 in Multnomah County on multiple counts of sodomy and sexual abuse, according to court records. He is on probation until 2013, said Robb Freda-Cowie, spokesman for the county Department of Community Justice.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs are all designated as “Jack Doe”, numbers 1 through 6. Exactly why they don’t use their real names is puzzling. They are no longer minor children. They range in age from 38 to 34 currently, having been born between 1969 and 1973.
Noticeably absent as a defendant from the complaint is the actual individual responsible for the alleged abuse, Timur Dikes. Of course, since he’s a convicted and registered sex offender, Mr. Dikes won’t have the kind of cash it will take to make these plaintiffs whole. So, it’s not really a surprise he isn’t listed, and only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints along with the Boy Scouts of America are listed as the primary deep pocket defendants.
A couple of noteworthy items in the complaint. All of the plaintiffs were born between 1969 and 1973, which placed them between 10 to 14 years of age during the alleged abuse years of 1980 through 1985. According to the Deseret News article above, Dikes was convicted several times between 1986 and 1994. Assuming that to be true, I’m not exactly certain just how the Church and the Boy Scouts knew or should have know, at least prior to 1986, and prior to the allegations of abuse listed in the complaint that Dikes was a child abuser. Well, I suppose that’s what discovery is for. We’ll see.
Also notable in the complaint is the fact that two decades went by before these six plaintiffs knew or had reason to know that their alleged injuries were causally related to the alleged abuse by Dikes. In fact, it’s simply amazing how as the complaint alleged, that each of these six plaintiffs didn’t discover any causal connection until 2006 or 2007. It’s also fortunate for them that they found Mr. Kelly within that same time frame, apparently, to represent them in this lawsuit. Of course, the discovery of the connection between their alleged damages and the alleged abuse so recently, is convenient for them and Mr. Kelly because it allows them to proceed against the deep pocket defendants without having to worry about that pesky statute of limitations problem they would otherwise face.
Of course, what lawsuit would be complete without a prayer for big money damages? Each of the plaintiffs, coincidently, will be made whole for the payment of a $4,000,000 in non-economic damages, and $250,000 in economic damages. It’s just uncanny how each plaintiff’s made whole numbers are exactly the same. It’s also interesting that two of these plaintiffs had previously filed, then dismissed to join the other four. In their prior lawsuit, their non-economic damages were a paltry $3,000,000–not sure why the inflation of a $1,000,000 in less than a year.
Finally, the complaint reserves the right of all these plaintiffs to alleged and plead their case for the really big money, represented by punitive damages. Let’s see, where have we heard about punitive damages and the Church before?
Update 11:40 a.m. As Justin notes in the comments there are more media accounts today:
And, as Justin points out, the media quotes Mr. Clark:
We also intend to prove that both the Mormon Church and Boy Scouts were well aware, by at least the 1960s, that they had a serious institution-wide infestation of child abuse, stretching across the country, involving hundreds of predators and thousands of children, and that they failed miserably to take responsible steps to clean up their organizations.”
Well, that’s just fine and dandy, Mr. Clark. But, as an experienced litigator, you likely already know that it is much easier to make such flashy, yet unsubstantiated media sound bites than to actually prove them in a court of law. This will be an interesting one to watch.
Again, the Church’s Official Response to the Oregonian newspaper, reprinted below:
4 October 2007 Yesterday a lawsuit was filed in Oregon charging The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America with ignoring sexual abuses by a former member of the Church.
The merits, or lack of merits, in this case, will be decided by the courts. However, the way in which the Oregonian, the Portland daily newspaper, reported the Church’s reaction was irresponsible. In its news story this morning, the Oregonian said that the Church failed to return telephone calls from their reporter asking for comment.
In fact, the call from the Oregonian was received in Church offices in Salt Lake City at 5:03 p.m. local time and was promptly referred to the Church’s attorney in Portland most familiar with the case. Attorney Steve English had been available all day and had already responded to many news media calls. The Oregonian reporter left a voice mail with English at the end of the business day, but failed to connect.
It is the responsibility of a reporter to ensure as far as possible that parties to a story are given adequate time to respond — not to leave a voice mail at the end of the day in the hope that it may be picked up.
The Church considers the widely reported statement of the plaintiffs’ attorney alleging that the Church “had a serious, institution-wide infestation of child abuse, stretching across the country,” to be outrageous. Additionally, the Oregonian reporter did not ask the Church’s spokesman to respond to this assertion.
In fact, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of the first churches to recognize the serious problem of child abuse. We know of no church that has done more to address child abuse than the LDS Church, as detailed here.