Extension of limitation in abuse cases

The New York State Legislature passed a bill on Monday (28 January 2019) that will increase the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse.  The Child Victims Act allows child victims to pursue a claim for compensation against their abuser until the age of 55.  Currently, the cut off age in New York to bring such a claim is 23.  

The new legislation in New York also includes a one-year window from the date it is passed, during which survivors of any age or time limit can come forward and initiate a civil claim for damages.  Up until last week the Catholic Church had opposed this one-year window.  A similar law in California, passed in 2002, resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion in settlements to claimants who came forward.   

Many other states in America allow victims to sue their abusers for decades after their abuse. Oklahoma, for example, allows victims to come forward until age 45 in civil claims.  Moves are underway in several other states to introduce similar legislation and proposed changes in Rhode Island and New Jersey are believed to have a good chance of being passed into law.  

Similar “window of opportunity” legislation has stalled in the Pennsylvanian legislature, for the past 3 years.   In August 2018 in Pennsylvania, a grand jury accused some 300 Catholic priests of abusing more than 1,000 children over seven decades. 

With changes in the recent past in Germany allowing claims in abuse cases to be made up until the age of 50 and proposals in Chile to remove the statute of limitation on child sex crimes in its entirety, more and more countries are considering similar changes, making this a truly worldwide phenomenon.


Authored by Associate James Chambers

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