A fraud lawsuit against Kanakuk Kamps may proceed, despite the objections of the Missouri camp and its leader, a county court ruled April 25.
Kanakuk Heritage Inc., Kanakuk Ministries, and Kanakuk CEO Joe White had asked the Taney County Circuit Court to dismiss claims against them brought by Logan Yandell, who says he was abused by a longtime camp counselor there as recently as 2008.
Westchester Fire Insurance Co., insurance carrier for Kanakuk, also asked to be dismissed from the suit. Judge Raymond M. Gross agreed to dismiss Westchester but not the three Kanakuk defendants.
Yandell’s petition, originally filed in November 2022, alleges the defendants committed fraud by misrepresenting knowledge of prior acts of sexual violence committed by camp counselor Peter Newman. Had Kanakuk properly represented their knowledge of Newman’s sexual misconduct (including sexual misconduct with other young boys), Yandell would not have settled his claims of abuse without litigation, he said.
The judge ruled the insurance company has not made “false representation” and thus under Missouri law cannot be prosecuted on Yandell’s claim. It is not “reasonable” to impute statements alleged to have been made by Joe White, CEO and board chair of Kanakuk, onto Westchester, the judge wrote.
White and the two legal entities together known as Kanakuk made two unsuccessful arguments in favor of dismissing Yandell’s claims.
The first argument, a legal doctrine known as “res judicata,” says a plaintiff cannot reassert a claim that already has been adjudicated by the court. However, there was no such court decision, as all parties previously “resolved their claims by way of a settlement agreement.”
The second argument was that the statute of limitations had expired. According to Missouri law, claims of fraud may be brought up to 15 years after the alleged fraud occurred. The alleged fraud in this case occurred within the prescribed time period.
Between 2003 and 2008, Yandell was abused by Newman multiple times, in multiple states as well as in China during a mission trip. Before and during these years, concerned parents approached Kanakuk leadership to report Newman’s sexually inappropriate and abusive behavior, but the camp dismissed them, according to Yandell’s affidavit.
Newman did not confess to the crime of sexually abusing children until 2009. He was fired shortly thereafter and in 2010 was given two life sentences plus 30 years in Missouri State Prison on multiple counts of statutory sodomy and child enticement involving child abuse on Kanakuk property.
Yandell now believes as a means of inducing a settlement quickly with victims like him, Kanakuk leadership assured his family they were unaware of incidents in which Newman had previously sexually abused children and that there had been only isolated incidents. Believing this, the Yandell family agreed to settle all claims and signed an NDA, prohibiting Yandell from telling his story of abuse at Kanakuk.
The fraud referenced in Yandell’s new petition refers to the company’s allegedly incorrect claim that camp leadership was unaware Newman was sexually abusing children prior to the abuse Yandell experienced between 2003 and 2008. Now, more than a decade’s worth of incident reports and miscellaneous interactions between Newman and camp leadership, including supervisor Will Cunningham’s recommendation that he be terminated in 2003, indicate Kanakuk knew about Newman’s inappropriate behavior.
The venue for Yandell’s case against Kanakuk has changed to Christian County, a Soutwest Missouri county adjacent to Taney County.
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