Abrogation (Or Not) Of Statute Of Limitations In Abuse Cases


Under Maryland law, and that of most states, a claimant generally has three years from his or her date of injury to file a civil action for damages. The period within which one must file a lawsuit is called a “statute of limitations,” because the time frames are set by the state legislature. There are exceptions in the law for various actions, both shorter – only one year for assault, libel or slander – and longer, as in the case of actions against health care providers: the earlier of (1) five years from the time the injury was committed when such injury arises out of the “rendering of or failure to render professional services by a health care provider” or (2) three years after the date such injury was discovered.

In the case of sexual abuse of a minor, the Maryland state legislature has eliminated the statute of limitations entirely. The Child Victims Act of 2023, which became effective on October 1, 2023, provides for actions to be “filed at any time.” This statute acknowledges the delay in grappling with childhood sexual abuse that many experience, having repressed the memories of trauma in order to function. Under the prior law, claims had to have been filed by the time the victim-survivor turned 38 years old.

While generally seen as having been passed in reaction to the attorney general’s report regarding its investigation into the sexual abuse that occurred in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, the law does apply to all persons and entities. Multiple claims have been filed against the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services regarding allegations of sexual abuse inside Maryland’s youth detention facilities across the state. The law limits recovery for sexual abuse by local or state government entities and county Boards of Education to “$890,000 to a single claimant for injuries arising from an incident or occurrence.” For other defendants, the total amount of noneconomic damages that may be awarded to a single claimant against a single defendant may not exceed $1.5 million.

The state legislature’s abrogation of the statute of limitations with respect to claims against the Archdiocese of Baltimore has been effectively circumvented by the archdiocese’s filing for Chapter 11 reorganization. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy to be able to compensate all victim-survivors more equitably, rather than having large settlements and/or awards go to fewer claimants and deplete the archdiocese’s financial resources, leaving most victim-survivors without compensation. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland has set a deadline of May 31, 2024, for survivors to file a claim. For information related to the archdiocese’s commitment to protecting children and helping to heal victims of abuse, see www.archbalt.org/apology-healing-action.

Child abuse is a serious and sensitive matter to confront. If you were the victim of such abuse, and if you or a loved one is contemplating filing a claim against the Archdiocese of Baltimore, you must file a claim form with the bankruptcy court before May 31. You should consult with an attorney who is a seasoned personal injury litigator and who will assist you in making informed decisions.

If you need further information regarding this subject, you can contact the Law Office of David V. Diggs LLC, located at 8684 Veterans Highway, Suite 302, in Millersville. Call 410-244-1189 or email david@diggslaw.com.


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