Maryland Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against Catholic Church, Other Organizations Will Be Allowed, Regardless How Long Ago the Abuse Occurred
Governor Wes Moore has signed a new law that entirely removes the statute of limitations for Maryland child sex abuse lawsuits, allowing survivors to pursue claims against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the conduct, regardless of how long ago the assault occurred.
The Maryland legislature passed the The Child Victims Act of 2023 with overwhelming support last week, and it was signed into law on April 11.
While variations of the new law have been working through the state’s legislature for years, it was finalized just days after a long-awaited Baltimore Archdiocese child sex abuse report was released by the Maryland Attorney General, detailing information about which Catholic priests abused children in Maryland over the last 60 years.
Catholic Church Child Sexual Abuse Investigation in Maryland
The Maryland Attorney General launched the investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church more than four years ago, and compiled information from more than 600 individuals abused as children.
The report found that the Baltimore Archdiocese and the entire Catholic Church placed a priority on keeping the events quiet, and keeping its priests out of jail, rather than protecting children in the church from known sexual predators.
Following the release of the report, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown indicated he has issued subpoenas which will expand the investigation into the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.
Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023
For years,lawmakers attempted to change the Maryland child sex abuse statute of limitations, which currently prevents most survivors from pursuing lawsuits.
While several other states have passed laws in recent years which opened temporary “windows” for previously barred claims to now be pursued, the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023 entirely removes any time limits on how long a survivor has to file a lawsuit over sexual abuse or assault when they were a child.
Passage of the law was opposed by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which is expected to now face hundreds, or even thousands, of clergy abuse lawsuits over incidents of child abuse carried out by priests for decades. The Conference claims the new law is unconstitutional, but Brown has indicated he believes he can defend the constitutionality of the newly signed law.
Supporters of the legislation argue that removing the Maryland statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims is necessary, since many survivors are not prepared to address the conduct until much later in life. In addition, the Catholic Church has been notorious for covering up credible allegations, discrediting child survivors of abuse and pressuring devoted families from pursuing any action against priests or other members of the clergy.
After a two year window in the New York child sex abuse statute of limitations was opened in 2020, tens of thousands of claims were brought against the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other entitles throughout the state. The Buffalo Diocese alone had at least 230 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors, with eight specific priests accounting for more than 1,000 lawsuits filed in that part of the state.
While statute of limitations laws have also been enacted in a number of other states, including New Jersey, California and Louisiana, other states are still debating similar bills that would allow survivors to hold abusers and entities that enabled their conduct accountable.
CONTACT A MARYLAND CHILD SEX ABUSE LAWYER
If you are a survivor of clergy abuse in Maryland, request a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer to find out whether you may now be eligible for a child sexual abuse settlement.
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