The Maryland legislature is considering a new law to retroactively lift the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse. If enacted, the law would enable thousands of childhood victims the ability to bring civil sex abuse lawsuits against their abusers and/or institutions such as churches or schools that failed to protect them.
Our Maryland sex abuse attorneys fight for justice on behalf of abuse victims. We are currently seeking cases from individuals who were sexually abused or assaulted as children.
You can call any of our sexual assault lawyers at 800-553-8082 for a confidential discussion of your case and your options. You can also complete this simple online form.
Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuits
Sexual abuse or sexual assault can generally be defined as any type of non-consensual or unwanted sexual touching or sexual contact. Minors under the age of 18 lack the legal capacity to give consent, so any sexual contact by an adult with a minor is considered sexual abuse. On a practical level, sexual abuse can range anywhere from groping to rape.
Child sex abuse is universally despised by all cultures and it is a criminal offense in all states in the U.S. In addition to (or sometimes instead of) criminal prosecution by the state, however, sex abuse victims can also bring civil tort lawsuits against responsible parties and get financial compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the abuse.
Defendants in a civil sex abuse lawsuit can be not only the person who committed the abuse, but also the school, church, company or other organization that negligently failed to prevent the abuse. Common examples of this include schools who fail to protect students from abuse by a teacher or churches that cover up clergy sex abuse.
Current Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases in Maryland
As of right now, Maryland civil lawsuits for sexual abuse are subject to the general statute of limitations that applies to regular intentional tort cases. Under this statute of limitations, abuse victims must file a civil lawsuit within 3-years from the date when the sex abuse occurred. If they fail to bring a lawsuit within this 3-year SOL period their right to file suit will be lost forever. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-105.
There is a general exception to this 3-year period called the “minority rule” that applies when the prospective plaintiff is a minor (under age 18). When the plaintiff is a child the 3-year statute of limitation period does not begin to run until they turn 18. This is known as the “minority” rule and it basically means that the individual has until their 21st birthday to file suit. In 2017, Maryland amended this law to give child sex abuse victims until their 38th birthday to file suit. That new law was not retroactive, however, so it only applies to future victims.
Many States Have Reformed their Laws to Allow Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Public awareness and attention regarding child sex abuse has dramatically increased over the last decade due to many high-profile scandals involving sex abuse of children by clergy members in Catholic Church and elsewhere. This public support has given many victims of child sex abuse the courage to come forward years later. This has generated pressure from the media and the public to hold abusers and the organizations that protected them accountable.
A group of 15 states have responded to this pressure over the last several years by enacting new reform laws to give child sex abuse victims the ability to bring civil lawsuits. These states have either temporarily lifted or extended their existing statutes of limitation for sex abuse lawsuits. The changes were also made retroactive to allow sex abuse lawsuits even when the abuse occurred decades earlier.
These details of these new laws are slightly different in each state. Some states created “lookback windows,” which are basically limited time periods of 1 or 2 years during which victims can bring a civil lawsuit for child sex abuse no matter how many years had passed. Other states simply lifted or permanently extended the limitations period for abuse claims.
Previous Failed Efforts to Amend Maryland Law on Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Maryland was actually not one of the 15 states took legislative action to amend or lift the statute of limitations child sex abuse lawsuits. In 2017, Maryland did pass a minor amendment to its statute of limitations which permits child sex abuse victims to wait until their 38th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. Although this was a nice gestures, the new law was not retroactive so it did nothing for the countless victims who were abused in prior decades and are now blocked from bringing suit.
Despite this half-measure, Maryland lawmakers have hardly been immune to the public and media demands for increased accountability. In fact, for the last several years the lower branch of the Maryland state legislature (the Maryland House of Delegates) has actually passed several bills that proposed changes to the law permitting child sex abuse survivors to bring out-of-date civil lawsuits. But all of those bills were repeatedly blocked in the State Senate and never became law.
New Maryland Law May Actually Pass This Year
Another bill to retroactively lift the statute of limitations and allow sex abuse lawsuits is already on the agenda for the new Maryland legislative session in 2023. The latest bill is identical to prior bills that were repeatedly rejected by the State Senate over the last few years. This time around, however, supporters of the law are much more optimistic that the bill will pass. There are 2 reasons for this new hope.
The first reason for the optimism is that the make-up of the State Senate has changed following the recent elections. Two Maryland State Senators who led opposition to prior versions of the bill (Sen. Robert Cassilly and Sen. Michael Hough) gave up their Senate seats to pursue other elected offices. Cassilly and Hough were key members of the coalition that effectively blocked the reform bill in the Senate each year. Their absence could cause the opposition to the bill to collapse.
The other development this year that is expected to give additional momentum to the push for legislative reform is the pending release of a 500-page report from the Maryland Attorney General detailing child sex abuse in the Baltimore Catholic Church. Right now the report is sealed, but there is strong a push to have it publicly released and the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently issued a public statement saying it supports the release of the report.
Contact Us About Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Get information about your options and learn exactly how a case like yours would proceed and what it would involve. You also do not have to call just us. Call several lawyers to find the best sexual assault attorney for you.
Call our sex abuse lawyers at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation. Is there someone you would rather speak to about your case? Look at our team and decide. Again, you can reach our attorneys for the sexually abused by reaching out online or by text at 410-835-4103.