The Boy Scouts of America and the St. Paul-based Northern Star Council deny responsibility for the alleged sexual abuse Ramsey County Board Chairman Jim McDonough suffered when he was a child.
The two groups filed answers Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court in response to McDonough's lawsuit alleging that scoutmaster Leland "Lee" Opalinski sexually abused him dozens of times from 1967 to 1971.
"Plaintiff's claims are barred because the alleged conduct of Leland Opalinski was outside of and/or beyond the course and scope of his alleged Scoutmaster or other roles," said the Northern Star Council's answer. "Plaintiff's claims are barred because this Defendant had no duty to Plaintiff to protect him from the unforeseeable conduct of Leland Opalinski."
McDonough, who was 12 to 16 when the alleged abuse occurred, is suing the Boy Scouts of America and the Northern Star Council for failing to protect him. The suit alleges that they hid the dangers of pedophile scoutmasters and became aware of Opalinski's "dangerous and exploitive propensities" but took no action. They failed, the suit said, to exercise "ordinary care" in supervising Opalinski, who is deceased.
McDonough, 60, alleges that Opalinski groomed and abused him at the First Covenant Church in St. Paul and at camps during scouting-related events and meetings, and publicly displayed "inappropriate physical contact" that was witnessed by other adults supervising the activities.
Both the Boy Scouts of America and the Northern Star Council also said McDonough's claims should be barred because of the statute of limitations.
McDonough said he filed the suit because the Child Victims Act, which became Minnesota law in 2013, opened a three-year window to sue in cases previously barred by the statute of limitations.
The Boy Scouts of America's answer stated, "… said injuries, if any, are the product of the acts or omissions of others, or were caused or contributed to by the negligence or fault of others, over whom this Defendant had no control. Leland Opalinski was never an employee or agent of this Defendant …"
The Northern Star Council also argued that it did not employ Opalinski.
Since McDonough's filing, three other suits have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America and the Northern Star Council. Two of the men in those suits also alleged that they were abused by Opalinksi.
Opalinski was barred from scouting in 1971 after he pleaded guilty to a charge of indecent liberties with a boy.