The Green and Gillispie law firm in Little Rock, which has handled child sexual abuse claims against clergy, Boy Scout leaders and others, has scheduled a news conference Thursday to talk about a new Arkansas law that makes it easier to sue for damages for such abuse.
SB 676 (now Act 1036) increases from 21 to 55 the age at which victims — either minors or the disabled — may file a claim and also creates a two-year period in which anyone of any age who was abused can bring a lawsuit against the abuser or an organization whose negligence facilitated the abuse. The organizations are typically the deep pockets from which damage claims are paid.
Green and Gillispie, in a news release, said the law is one of the most progressive in the country, with comparable statutes only in California, New Jersey and New York.
The news release said the new law will aid claims by 879 Arkansas men against the Boy Scouts of America, including the Quapaw Area Council in Little Rock, which covers a big part of Arkansas. Said the release:
Because of this new law, all of these Arkansas victims’ cases are suddenly no longer outside the statute of limitations; they are no longer time-barred. This is a major win for them and an incredibly bad omen for Scouting in Arkansas.
Four men with claims of abuse by Scout leaders will appear at the news conference. Josh Gillispie’s news release also said:
Additionally, we will be disclosing the names of the child molesters who perpetrated much of the worst abuse here in Arkansas, both in Scouting and in the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock. Over the last ten years my firm has increasingly handled more and more child sexual abuse cases (case involving scouting, Catholic clergy, children’s homes, Baptist ministers, teachers, coaches, and many others), and today it makes up the vast majority of my entire practice. We believe it is our duty to tell the people of Arkansas know what we know, so that they may better protect their children.
The news release commented on the legislation: “It’s truly incredible that this happened in a place like Arkansas …”
It didn’t elaborate on what “a place like Arkansas” means. But one obvious thing is that the legislature typically tries to make it harder to sue for damages in civil court, not easier. Similar legislation has run into opposition in other states.
The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy reorganization in the face of a flood of claims, with its plan so far not meeting approval from lawyers for abuse victims. The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, along with dioceses around the country, has begun publicly disclosing names of clergy against whom credible claims of abuse have been made.
Legal claims are pending in several Arkansas abuse cases.
The new law allows recovery of actual damages and also punitive damages.