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Hammerberg v. Boy Scouts of America Corp.

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

August 11, 2015

Edwin L. Hammerberg
v.
Boy Scouts of America Corp. et al. [1] No. 131692

Filed August 12, 2015

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Gregg J. Pasquale, Justice

The plaintiff, Edwin L. Hammerberg (" the plaintiff"), brings this action against Boy Scouts of America Corp., Mohegan Council, Inc. (" Mohegan"), and Boy Scouts of America (" Boy Scouts") (collectively, " the defendants") alleging that he was sexually abused by his scoutmaster, Lawrence Wiles (" Wiles"). Now before the court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion is ALLOWED .

BACKGROUND

The following facts are the undisputed facts contained in the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See United States Attorney Gen. v. Bailey, 386 Mass. 367, 371, 436 N.E.2d 139 (1982).

The Boy Scouts is a non-profit organization that was chartered by the United States Congress in 1916. This program provides a framework by which young males can participate in activities designed to teach patriotism, self-reliance, courage, and kindred values. In order to fulfill its congressional mandate, the Boy Scouts issues charters to councils, that consist of a group of volunteers who incorporate as a non-profit organization in their respective states. These councils support scouting at a local level. Mohegan is one such council. These councils then offer the Scouting program to existing chartered organizations, such as churches, schools, and more.

According to its charter, the purpose of the BSA is to " . . . promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues . . ." The BSA's by-laws state that " in achieving this purpose, emphasis shall be placed upon its educational program and the oaths, promises, and codes of the Scouting program for character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fitness." The Constitution of the Mohegan Council states that its purpose " is to promote, supervise and administer the educational and recreational program of the Boy Scouts of America for character development, citizenship training and physical fitness . . ."

Chartered organizations can organize a Scouting program by applying for a charter to authorize the use of the Scouting program in order to create a boy scout troop. After approval, the chartered organization forms a troop committee that is responsible for promoting the troop and recruiting participants. This committee usually consists of parents of joining members. The committee also selects the individual, or individuals, known as the scoutmaster, who will lead the troop.

The plaintiff joined Troop 99 located in Worcester, Massachusetts as a nine-year-old boy. The scoutmaster of Troop 99 was Wiles. As expected, the plaintiff became acquainted with Wiles through his participation in Troop 99. The plaintiff's mother encouraged further association with Wiles outside of scouting so that the plaintiff could have a male figure in his life.

After a period of time, approximately during the years 1961-1964, when the plaintiff was nine to twelve years old, Wiles made sexual advances towards the plaintiff. These advances occurred during non-scouting interactions. Wiles's sexual abuse of the plaintiff occurred primarily at a steam bathhouse located in Charlton, Massachusetts. Wiles took the plaintiff to this steam bathhouse on a weekly basis for approximately two years. This sexual abuse consisted of oral and/or anal sex. Wiles died on March 15, 1989, after serving as a scoutmaster for thirty years.

Later, sometime during the years of 2009-2011, the plaintiff developed severe anxiety when driving past a particular building in Charlton, Massachusetts. The plaintiff thereafter recalled that this building was the steam bathhouse where Wiles had sexually abused him. Prior to this, the plaintiff had no memory of the abuse.

A licensed psychiatrist, Dr. James A. Chu (" Dr. Chu"), submitted an affidavit to this court stating that sexually-abused victims commonly suffer from what is known as traumatic amnesia, where victims forget their traumatic experience, but recall it at a later date. Dr. Chu further opined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the plaintiffs symptoms are consistent with the symptoms of traumatic amnesia.[2]

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review


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