On the heels of an emotional Dec. 7 press conference held in support of Catholic Church child sexual abuse survivors, news broke that Maryland Senator Will Smith would support a new bill giving survivors the chance to sue their perpetrators. The bill, previously known as the “Hidden Predator Act,” seeks to extend the statute of limitations that child sexual abuse survivors have to file a lawsuit.
Currently under Maryland state law, survivors only have until they turn 38 to file such a claim or three years after the abuser is convicted in criminal court (if they ever are)—whichever date is later. In addition, under current law, if the survivor files suit after their 25th birthday, the employers of the abusers (here, the three Archdioceses operating in Maryland), are not liable unless the survivor is able to prove gross negligence. That means if any of the Archdioceses knew that a priest was abusing children, it would not be liable unless the intent to harm—or complete indifference—is proven. The Archdioceses have additional protections that if the survivor does not file before age 38, even if the perpetrator is convicted of a crime, the Archdioceses are immune from suit.
Senator Smith’s committee intends to brief the bill in the early 2023 legislative session. “We can have some of those discussions out loud and I’m certain we’ll have forthcoming legislation,” Smith said.
Much like New York’s Child Victims Act which went into effect in August 2019, Maryland’s proposed legislation would provide a two-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come forward with their claims. Survivors would have two years from the time the law is passed to file their lawsuit, even if the abuse happened decades ago. Since many of the priests and other predators are dead, this window could be meaningless unless the protections currently in place for the Archdioceses are also amended.
While the language of the new bill has not been released, there is widespread public support from survivors and lawmakers alike for amending the statute of limitations to enable child sexual abuse survivors to sue and hold the wrongdoers accountable. The Maryland Attorney General’s motion to disclose a redacted version of its report, “Clergy Sexual Abuse in Maryland,” details accounts of 600 survivors of sexual abuse by Baltimore Archdiocese Clergy. Some of the survivors whose stories are included in the report were of preschool-age at the time of their alleged abuse, which spans decades. For many survivors of sexual abuse, memories of their experiences have haunted them their entire adult lives.
Contact Grant & Eisenhofer Today
Grant & Eisenhofer represents survivors of child sexual abuse nationwide. We help our clients hold wrongdoers accountable and prevent them from abusing others; and we seek damages for the harm that survivors suffered. If you or a loved one are a child sexual abuse survivor, you can speak with our attorneys today at 855-244-2031. Our legal team can help you determine if you have a viable claim and answer your legal questions.
Even if you think your claim might be time-barred, make the call today. You may be able to sue for accountability and remain anonymous. Maryland courts recognize that public exposure can compound the injuries of sexual abuse and make healing more difficult. Courts are able to protect plaintiffs’ identities through Jane Doe, John Doe, and Doe Doe (nonbinary) filings. In addition, any conversations you have with us will be confidential, even if we do not file a lawsuit on your behalf. Call today to learn about your potential options.
- G&E Attorneys Speak on Maryland Child Victims Act Panel - June 7, 2023
- Breaking News: Maryland Child Sex Abuse Bill Signed into Law - April 12, 2023
- Maryland Bill Proposes Removal of Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Claims - January 27, 2023