Apr 12, 2023
Landmark legislation was signed into law Tuesday by Maryland’s Governor, Wes Moore. Known as the Child Victims Act, the bill effectively ends Maryland’s statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse claims against institutions.
Current law prohibits childhood sexual abuse survivors in Maryland from suing after they reach the age of 38. Under the Child Victims Act, however, Maryland child survivors may file claims seeking to recover financial compensation – regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred or how old they are when they feel ready to come forward.
“There is no statute of limitations on the hurt that endures for decades after someone is assaulted,” Governor Moore said. “There is no statute of limitations on the trauma that harms so many still to this day, and this law reflects that exact truth.”
Under Maryland’s Child Victims Act, when suing private entities such as the Catholic Church, non-economic damages are capped at $1.5 million for harm endured like pain and suffering or emotional trauma. However, for economic damages such as costs related to services like therapy, counseling, or medical treatment, there isn’t a cap. When Maryland survivors sue public entities like school boards and local governments, damages are capped at $890,000, a report from Fox News confirmed.
Maryland’s Child Victims Act takes effect on October 1. Although it is necessary and welcomed legislation which will help survivors of childhood sexual abuse secure the justice they deserve, it is worth noting that it is the only such law that includes a cap for damages.
States such as California, which passed AB 218 in 2019, and New York, which passed its own Child Victims Act in 2019, have afforded survivors similar opportunities to pursue justice and appropriate financial compensation through civil claims.
The passage of Maryland’s Child Victims Act comes just days after the state’s Attorney General released a report that documented the scope of sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese over the past 80 years. Church leaders are accused of engaging in decades of coverups, with 156 Catholic clergy members and others alleged to have sexually abused over 600 children, according to a report from CNN.
“From the 1940s through 2002, over a hundred priests and other Archdiocese personnel engaged in horrific and repeated abuse of the most vulnerable children in their communities while Archdiocese leadership looked the other way,” the report reads. “Time and again, members of the Church’s hierarchy resolutely refused to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse for as long as possible.”
“The report lists descriptions of graphic sexual and physical abuse allegations: It includes stories of how some alleged abusers provided victims with alcohol and drugs and describes in vivid detail how they coerced and forced victims to perform sexual acts,” CNN said.
In the Maryland Attorney General’s Catholic Church sexual abuse report, the list of perpetrators includes:
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office stated that over 300 people reached out after the office announced an email address and telephone hotline for people to report information about clergy sex abuse. Investigators reportedly interviewed hundreds of survivors and witnesses.
“Today certainly in Maryland is a day of reckoning and a day of accounting,” Governor Brown said during a news conference last week.
Brown reportedly met with survivors of Maryland Catholic Church sexual abuse as well as advocates, taking an opportunity to listen to personal stories.
“While each of those stories is unique, together, they reveal themes and behaviors typical of adults who abuse children, and those who enable that abuse by concealing it,” Brown said. “What was consistent throughout the stories was the absolute authority and power these abusive priests and the church leadership held over survivors, their families and their communities.”
The Maryland Child Victims Act, which ends the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse civil claims, had been sponsored for several years by State Delegate C.T. Wilson. CNN confirmed that Wilson testified previously about being sexually abused in his youth.
“I thank all the survivors that came up year after year and told their stories,” Wilson said upon passage of the Child Victims Act.
David Lorenz, Maryland’s leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), also attended the legislation signing ceremony. Lorenz said he was “thrilled for my fellow survivors.”
Maryland becomes one of 24 states which have passed some type of legislation allowing survivors of child sexual abuse the opportunity to pursue justice and sue for damages. Commonly known as revival windows or lookback windows, these laws afford childhood sexual abuse survivors with limited deadlines for filing civil claims.
Maryland, however, is unique in that the Child Victims Act actually establishes a permeant window which eliminates the statute of limitations on child sex abuse civil lawsuits.
California opened a three-year lookback window in 2020 under AB 218. But state legislators have taken action recently in an effort to permanently remove the statute of limitations on such claims. Known as California Assembly Bill 452 (AB 452), the legislation would effectively end the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse civil lawsuits.
For more information on California AB 452, please click here.
For more information on which states throughout the nation have enacted revival windows, please click here.
Maryland survivors of child sexual abuse may immediately file claims with Dordulian Law Group (DLG) under the Child Victims Act. Although the law does not take effect until October 1, 2023, DLG’s experienced Maryland child sexual abuse attorneys are able to begin the process of securing justice for your claim today.
To speak with a child sexual abuse lawyer, contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. DLG is a leading California sex crimes firm with experienced Of Counsel attorneys based throughput the nation. Whether your sex abuse crime occurred in Maryland, California, or another state, we are here to help and fight aggressively for the justice and financial compensation you deserve.
DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office sex crimes prosecutor and member of RAINN’s (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) National Leadership Council. As a sex crimes prosecutor, Dordulian secured life sentences against some of California’s most dangerous sexual predators. Today, Dordulian fights for justice on behalf of sexual abuse survivors in civil court.
With more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts obtained for clients while maintaining a 98% winning record, Dordulian and his team of national child sexual abuse attorneys have the experience and proven results to give you peace of mind throughout the litigation process.
Some of our recent sex crimes case victories include:
Legislation like Maryland’s Child Victims Act is necessary because many survivors of child sexual abuse choose not to report their crimes for years and even decades afterward.
A study conducted by the German government found that the overall mean age at the time of reporting child sexual abuse was 52.2 years.
The German study sought to compare the nature of the child sex abuse experienced at three types of institutions:
After establishing a government hotline, the data indicated:
“Victims who had been in religiously affiliated institutions were significantly older than those who had been in secular institutions. Almost half the victims had been abused physically as well as sexually, and most victims reported that the abuse had occurred repeatedly and that the assaults had been committed by males. Patterns of abuse (time, type, and extent), and the gender of the offenders did not differ between the three groups. Intercourse was more frequently reported by older victims and by females. Similar percentages of victims in all groups reported current psychiatric diagnoses (depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD). Significantly more victims from Protestant institutions reported having current psychosocial problems.”
Additionally, statistics on delayed reporting of childhood sexual abuse (provided by Child USA) include:
As the data continues to confirm that the trauma from childhood sexual abuse can take years or even decades to process and eventually report, more and more states are passing legislation similar to Maryland’s Child Victims Act.
DLG supports such legislation and hopes to see California AB 452 passed in the near future, permanently opening the revival window and allowing child sexual abuse victims to file civil claims by eliminating the statutes of limitations entirely.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.