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Doe I v. Boy Scouts of America

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 30, 2014

JOHN DOE I, JOHN DOE II, JOHN DOE III, JOHN DOE IV, JOHN DOE V, JOHN DOE VI, JOHN DOE VII, AND JOHN ELLIOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, a congressionally chartered corporation authorized to do business in Idaho; CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, a foreign corporation sole registered to do business in Idaho; and CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTERDAY SAINTS AND SUCCESSORS, a foreign corporation registered to business in Idaho, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION & ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The eight plaintiffs in this case joined Boy Scout troops when they were children. Some of the troops were sponsored by the LDS Church. Each plaintiff says a scout leader sexually abused him and, further, that the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts were well aware of the dangers of sex abuse in scouting but failed to disclose that danger.

All plaintiffs have sued the Boy Scouts of America and five of the eight are suing the LDS Church as well. The original eight plaintiffs also wish to amend their complaint to add eight new plaintiffs, for a total of sixteen.[1] See Motion to Amend, Dkt. 23; Second Motion to Amend, Dkt. 30.

The issue before the Court is whether these sixteen individuals should be allowed to pursue their claims in a single action, or whether they should be required to proceed separately. As explained below, the Court concludes that four of the sixteen plaintiffs (John Does VII, IX, XI and John Elliott) will be allowed to pursue their cases to trial in a single action because their claims arise out of the same event. With regard to the remaining twelve, the Court will allow their claims to be joined during the pre-trial phase of this case, because their claims arise out of a common series of occurrences and present common legal and factual issues. The Court will sever these twelve plaintiffs' claims for trial, however, because a single trial would result in prejudice and jury confusion.

The parties should be aware, however, that after discovery, and most likely after ruling on dispositive motions, the Court may reconsider, either on motion or pursuant to its inherent powers, the propriety of a single trial for some or all of these twelve plaintiffs.[2] See Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(b), 21, and 42(b).

BACKGROUND

The sixteen plaintiffs in this case can be broadly grouped into two categories: (1) the four individuals who allege that a scout leader sexually abused them on the same night, in the same tent, and (2) all the others.

1. John Does VII, IX, XI, and John Elliott

The four boys who were allegedly abused on the same night - John Does VII, IX, XI, and John Elliott - appear to have joined[3] the same troop, sponsored by the Southminster Presbyterian Church. They say that during the summer of 1977, they went on an overnight hiking trip near McCall, Idaho. Scout leader James Schmidt told them scary stories and convinced the boys to sleep in his tent. He then abused each of them in turn. The boys were 12 or 13 years old. These plaintiffs bring their claims against the Boy Scouts of America only.

2. The Remaining Plaintiffs

The remaining plaintiffs were allegedly abused at different times by different men, though there is overlap in the names of the accused abusers: Six men - James Schmidt, Dennis Empey, Larren Arnold, Lawrence Libey, Ronald Jenkins, and Art Krigbaum - allegedly abused the twelve boys. All boys appear to have joined different scouting troops. Some are suing both defendants, while others sue only the Boy Scouts.

As for the particular troops involved in this suit, there is no overlap between the specific troops identified thus far, although seven boys allegedly joined troops sponsored by some branch of the LDS Church. Otherwise, one boy joined a troop sponsored by the Elks Club; another joined a troop sponsored by the Presbyterian Church; another joined a troop sponsored by the Christian Faith Center of the Assembly of God, and another joined a troop sponsored by the Whitney United Methodist Church.

As for the alleged abuse, plaintiffs allege the following incidents:

John Doe I. John Doe I says James Schmidt abused him over a six-month period during the spring and summer of 1982, including in LDS Church buildings and Boy Scout buildings in Boise, as well as on boy scout camping trips.

John Doe II. John Doe II says James Schmidt abused him over a two-year period, between 1982 and 1984.

John Doe III. John Doe III says Dennis Empey abused him approximately four times in 1981 during a week-long camping trip at Camp Morrison, a boy scout camp located near McCall, Idaho.

John Doe IV. John Doe IV says Lawrence Libey abused him hundreds of times over a six-year period, from 1972 to 1978. He has not specified where the abuse occurred.

John Doe V. John Doe V says James Schmidt abused him in a single incident in 1979 or 1980 at ...


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