KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kanakuk Kamps admits it withheld information from victims of child sexual abuse and their families, according to new court filings.
On Oct. 27, Branson-based Kanakuk filed a lawsuit against its insurance company for breach of contract.
Kanakuk claims ACE American Insurance Company is refusing to defend the camp in a lawsuit filed by Logan Yandell.
Yandell, along with several others, was sexually abused as a child by Pete Newman, previous director of Kanakuk Kamps.
In 2009, Newman was convicted of sexual abusing multiple campers and sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, Yandell's family reached a settlement with Kanakuk and its CEO, Joe White.
White has maintained he did not know Newman was a threat until the day of his arrest.
Yandell and his family said they agreed to a settlement based on White's claim.
However, court documents, including a disciplinary report, reveal Kanakuk knew Newman was engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviors with kids as far back as 1999.
In Nov. 2022, Yandell filed a new lawsuit against Kanakuk claiming the camp and White committed fraud by making false representations to convince families to settle their lawsuits.
In Kanakuk's lawsuit against its insurance company, the camp admits it did know more about Newman, as laid out in Yandell's recent lawsuit, but withheld the information due to threats from ACE.
Kanakuk does not divulge specifics about what it knew in its lawsuit but states, "During ACE’s orchestration, direction, and complete control over the negotiation and settlement of Plaintiff Yandell’s claims, Plaintiff Yandell claims ACE did not disclose information regarding prior instances of Newman’s activities that have been brought into question by Plaintiff’s allegations."
Yandell said he filed his lawsuit so Kanakuk would be forced to reveal the truth.
"What they’re now admitting is that they chose their coverage, their insurance coverage, over the well being and safety of children that were in their care," Yandell said. "This is the biggest sex abuse scandal that no one’s ever heard about. The reason no one’s ever heard about it is because the insurance company and Kanakuk’s done a really good job covering it up."
According to the lawsuit, Kanakuk claims it was going to send out letters to 8,000 families regarding information about Newman but was directed not to by ACE.
The lawsuit claims, "In a June 18, 2010, letter to Kanakuk, ACE adjuster Cannon told Kanakuk defendants not to send information regarding Newman’s activities that have been brought into question by Plaintiff’s allegations to the families of Kanakuk campers. Adjuster Cannon wrote 'Such disclosures threaten to expose Kanakuk to greater liability and may interfere with ACE’s contractual right to defend claims and to have Kanakuk’s cooperation in that defense. We strongly recommend that you do not send out the proposed public disclosures about Mr. Newman’s misconduct at camp and Kanakuk’s response to that conduct.'"
Yandell said Kanakuk's lawsuit against its insurer is another example of White and Kanakuk shirking accountability.
"Now they’re just blame shifting," Yandell said. They’re saying, yeah we knew but the insurance company made us cover it up."
Kanakuk is suing ACE for breach of contract for refusing to represent Kanakuk in Yandell's lawsuit, due to Yandell's claim of fraud.
The lawsuit claims, "ACE represented to Kanakuk that it denied coverage because Plaintiff’s claims arose in fraud, not bodily injury or damage to personal property, and fraud is not a covered event under the Policy."
While Yandell's case fell within the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim in Missouri, many victims are not able to seek justice, which is something that motivates Yandell to fight back against Kanakuk.
"I know what it feels like to have gone through an adverse childhood experience and feel like, ya know, my hands are tied legally— I can’t hold anyone accountable for this," Yandell said. "Going back through these things, reliving those memories can often times for many survivors be re-traumatizing. I’m really lucky that I’m in a great place in my life and that is because of the support that I’ve had throughout my life."
A trial date has been set for Yandell's civil case for Jan. 2025.
The KSHB I-team received the following response from Kanakuk regarding its lawsuit against ACE:
"Our policy is not to comment on litigation matters. In the meantime, we continue to pray for all who have been affected by Pete Newman’s behavior."