The Maryland legislature is poised to finally pass a new law that will amend or eliminate the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse. If passed, the law would give thousands of childhood sexual assault and abuse victims the ability to bring civil sex abuse lawsuits against the abusers and the institutions that covered up the abuse (e.g., the Church, Boy Scouts, etc.).
The sex abuse lawyers at Miller & Zois represent victims of abuse in their fight for justice. 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.
Legislative and News Updates:
4-12-23: **NEW LAW PASSED** Maryland’s Governor has signed the Child Victims Act of 2023 into law in Maryland, making it easier for victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits. This new law enables abuse victims to file lawsuits even if their claims have already expired under an existing statute of limitations. It also removes the statute of limitations for all future lawsuits based on childhood sexual abuse claims.
3-31-23: The Maryland House of Delegates has passed the Child Victims Act today with an overwhelming majority – only two dissenting votes. The bill will allow more survivors of child sexual abuse to sue the institutions that enabled their abusers. The legislation lifts all age limits and time limits for filing lawsuits related to child abuse against institutions, such as churches, schools, and camps, and undoes a legal protection called a “statute of repose” that insulated institutions from older legal claims. The Maryland Senate has already approved an identical version of the bill. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
3-14-23: On March 10, 2023, the Maryland legislature took a key step forward in the push to lift the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse. A key committee in the Maryland Senate voted 10-1 to approve a new bill called the Child Victims Act of 2023. The new law will completely eliminate all time limits on sexual abuse civil lawsuits, allowing victims to file suit no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The bill will now be presented to the full Maryland Senate for a vote. If it passes in the Senate, the bill will almost certainly become law because it is easily expected to pass in the House of Delegates.
3-1-23: For the last four years, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has conducted an in-depth investigation into child sex abuse within the Baltimore Catholic church. The investigation culminated in a lengthy report that details incidents of abuse and cover-ups dating back to the 1940s. The investigation report has remained sealed, but last Friday, a Maryland judge issued an Order giving the Attorney General’s Office permission to release a redacted version of the investigation report to the public. This development comes just days after many of the victims involved in the investigation testified at a state Senate hearing in support of a new bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits in Maryland.
Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuits
Sexual abuse or sexual assault is essentially unwanted or non-consensual sexual touching or sexual contact. This includes any type of sexual contact by an adult with a minor (under 18) because minors lack the capacity to give consent. On a practical level, sexual abuse can range anywhere from rape to groping.
Sex abuse of a minor is a crime and offenders can be criminally prosecuted by the State. In addition to criminal proceedings, however, victims of sex abuse can also file civil tort lawsuits and get financial compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the abuse.
A civil lawsuit for sex abuse can be brought not only against the individual offender who committed the abuse but also against a company or organization that negligently failed to prevent the abuse. For example, if a priest sexually abuses a child a civil lawsuit can be filed against the church. Or if a teacher abuses a student, the school can be sued.
Current Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse Cases in Maryland
Currently, under Maryland law, civil lawsuits for sexual abuse are subject to the general statute of limitations that applies to regular tort cases. Under this law, victims have 3-years from the date of the assault or abuse to file a civil lawsuit, otherwise, their claim will be legally barred. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-105.
If the victim was a minor (under age 18) when the abuse occurred, the 3-year period does not begin to run until they turn 18. This is known as the “minority” rule and it basically means that the victim has until their 21st birthday to file suit for an assault that happened during their childhood. 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 Pass New Laws to Allow Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Over the last decade, many high-profile scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by clergy members have generated public attention and awareness. This has prompted many child sex abuse victims to come forward years later. The public pressure has prompted a movement in favor of holding the clergy abusers and their churches accountable.
Over the last several years, a total of 15 states have amended their laws to make it easier for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits. These states have either lifted or significantly extended their existing statutes of limitation to allow sex abuse lawsuits even when the abuse occurred decades earlier.
These new rules vary from state to state. Some states enacted “lookback windows,” which are basically 1 or 2 years periods during which childhood sex abuse victims would be allowed to sue no matter how many years had passed. Other states simply extended the limitations period for abuse claims.
Efforts to Amend Maryland on Civil Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Maryland is not one of the 15 states that passed new laws amending the statute of limitations to allow child sex abuse victims to file civil lawsuits. Maryland did amend its statute of limitations in 2017 to give child sex abuse victims until their 38th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. However, this law was not retroactive so it did not apply to the victims who were abused decades ago and are now barred from suing.
This does not mean that Maryland has been immune to the public push seeking to help and support sex abuse victims. In fact, for the last several years the Maryland House of Delegates (the lower branch of the Maryland state legislative body) has passed bills that would change the law to allow child sex abuse survivors to bring out-of-date civil lawsuits. But those bills were repeatedly blocked in the State Senate and never became law.
New Maryland Law May Actually Pass This Year
As we head into a new legislative session in Maryland in 2023, a bill to retroactively amend the statute of limitations and allow sex abuse claims is already on the agenda. Despite failed efforts in previous years, however, supporters of the law are more optimistic for two main reasons.
The first reason that advocates for the bill are hoping for a different outcome this year is that the two State Senators who were major opponents of the bill (Sen. Robert Cassilly and Sen. Michael Hough) are no longer in the legislature because they pursued 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 be the key to advancing the bill this time.
The other factor that might give the reform law some extra momentum this year is the pending release of a 500-page report from the Maryland Attorney General detailing child sex abuse in the Baltimore Catholic Church. The report is currently 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.
In February 2023, the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee held a hearing on the proposed Child Victims Act of 2023, which, would eliminate time restrictions for victims to file lawsuits against perpetrators or entities that facilitated abuse.The bill is sponsoed by Senator Will Smith, who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee and has greater support in the Maryland Senate.
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.