By DAVID KRAVETS
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The California Supreme Court paved the way Wednesday for a molest victim to sue the Boy Scouts of America Inc. on allegations the youth organization failed to take reasonable measures to protect him.
The case has broad implications over whether organizations like the Boy Scouts that serve young people have a duty to take special action to protect youths from sexual predators. Only courts in Louisiana and Oregon have issued similar rulings against the Boy Scouts.
California's high court Wednesday let stand a May appellate court decision that said a suit by former Oakland scout Mario Juarez could go forward ''on the theory that the Scouts failed to take reasonable measures to protect Juarez from sexual molestation.''
None of the high court's justices voted to review the case from the 1st District Court of Appeal. That appellate panel in San Francisco had reversed an Alameda County judge's dismissal of Juarez's case.
''This is great news for everybody. It was over 11 years ago that I was sexually molested and there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about what that man did to me,'' said Juarez, now a 23-year-old small businessman in San Leandro.
The Scouts maintained they should not be held liable for the illegal acts of its scoutmasters. In court papers, they said there's no proof that sex-abuse prevention programs for children actually work. Still, the court papers state, the Scouts are credited with creating some of the nation's best children's education materials about sexual abuse, which urges kids to ''recognize, resist and report'' inappropriate behavior by adults.
However, troops are not required to show these materials to Scouts. Boy Scouts executives said Wednesday they hoped the high court's decision will send a message to the Scouts that the troops must somehow have access to those education materials.
''If this case stimulates people to more closely follow the program, that would be a good outcome of the court's decision today,'' said Steve Barnes, chief executive officer of the Bay Area Boy Scouts. He deferred legal questions to the Scouts' San Francisco attorney, Nicholas W. Heldt, who declined comment.
The Scouts' legal options are to request the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, settle out of court with Juarez or to try the case in an Alameda County court.
Serial molester Jorge Paz, Juarez's former scoutmaster and attacker, is serving a 14-year prison term and has admitted to molesting about a dozen boys, including two Scouts in Florida. In a deposition from San Quentin, he said his Troop 255 of Oakland did not undergo the sex-abuse training when Juarez was molested more than a decade ago.
''This decision is going to protect kids in all kinds of organizations,'' said Charles A. Bonner, Juarez's attorney. ''Many other states look to California. This is a new precedent.''
In court documents, more than 100 nonprofit youth groups urged California's high court to dismiss the case. The groups wrote that they are ''extremely concerned that the law stated in the court of appeal's opinion threatens their very existence by exposing them to liability which will be impossibly burdensome to avoid and/or prohibitively expensive to insure.''
The appellate panel wrote that the Scouts have a long history and experience with molestation. By its very nature, the Scouts is an ideal situation for pedophiles, the court said.
Because there is widespread documentation of molestation in the Scouts, the appellate panel said the Scouts had a duty to protect the boys from a well-known risk.
Sexual abuse in scouting ''is more common than accidental deaths and serious injuries combined,'' said a Texas law review article that the court of appeals cited in its lengthy decision.
In its papers submitted to the California Supreme Court, the Scouts estimated that one in 10,000 children participating in scouting programs raise allegations of sexual abuse.
The case is Juarez vs. Boy Scouts of America Inc., S089411.