Statute of Limitations on Sexual Crimes in Philadelphia

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Successful Results For Our Clients

Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan is a full service personal injury law firm. Our lawyers handle victim injury cases including sexual abuse and molestation cases against churches, schools, doctors, etc. Firm partner Guy D’Andrea is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor with a passion for helping victims of abuse.

  • $7.5 Million

    Against a correctional facility for negligently supervising a guard that physically and sexually abused an inmate in their care

  • $750,000

    Against a psychiatric hospital for their failure to prevent a woman in their care from being sexually assaulted.

  • 74 Million Dollar Settlement

    Against a Christian Board School and other defendants that allowed horrific acts of sexual and physical violence against the young children in their care.

  • $3 Million

    Against a University for Child Sexual Abuse

  • $2 Million

    Against a religious organization because of their negligent supervision of a pedophile priest who sexually abused a child

  • $1 Million

    Against child protective services for their failures in preventing the sexual abuse of a child within their care and custody

  • Six Figure Recovery

    Against an all girls religious high school for negligent supervision of a teacher who engaged in sexual conduct with a student on school property

  • Six Figure Recovery

    Against an all girls religious high school for negligent supervision of a teacher who engaged in sexual conduct with a student on school property

  • Six Figure Recovery

    Student sexually harassed and assaulted by high school teacher

  • Six Figure Recovery

    Molestation case against sitting state court judge who admitted to the abuse, resigned from the bench and was then disbarred

  • $1.9 Million

    For a child who was sexually abused by a clergy member

Laws Often Roadblocks On The Path To Justice

For survivors of child sex abuse, assault and molestation, the path to justice is often long. Most survivors don’t even come to terms with the abuse until well into adulthood. It’s not uncommon for someone in their 30s, 40s or 50s to recognize and verbalize that they were victims of child molestation. Unfortunately, statute of limitations laws often act as a roadblock or complete barrier to justice.

SOL Reform
Takes Root

States have begun to amend statute of limitations laws for child sex abuse and molestation cases. Some states have passed special laws that revive previously time-barred lawsuits. Delaware and California have passed such laws which allowed an individual, whose case was barred by the applicable statute of limitations law, to file a civil lawsuit within the specified period, usually 2 years. Basically, these special laws opened specific windows of time which revived child molestation lawsuits. Currently, in the 2015-2016 legislative session, Pennsylvania is considering passing such a window. See discussion below.

Related News: Georgia Opens 2 Year Window Survivors of Child Sex Abuse May File Civil Lawsuits Against Perpetrators  (August 3, 2015)

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Two Separate Legal Remedies – Criminal & Civil Courts

It’s important to note that survivors of child abuse or molestation generally have two legal remedies: file criminal charges and/or file a civil lawsuit.

These two options are mutually exclusive of each other. An individual may choose to proceed with one or both options. In addition, neither depends on the other. The civil case, for instance, in no way depends on the criminal case. In fact, even if the perpetrator is found “not guilty” in the criminal case, the civil case can still be successful. That’s because the standard of proof is different in criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, the standard of proof is much higher than in civil cases. Therefore, proving a case in the civil justice system is much easier than in the criminal system.

In response, the PA legislature amended both the criminal and civil statute of limitations laws for these cases. These 2002 amendments reflect the most current version of the law, as of October 2016.

Under current law, survivors of child molestation have until their 30th birthday to file civil lawsuits. The criminal statute of limitations is a victim’s 50th birthday. The civil time limit, however, only applies to acts of child sex abuse that occurred after the date the law became effective, August 27, 2002.

For acts of child sex abuse that occurred before August 27, 2002, the statute of limitations varies and depends on the laws in effect on the date of the abuse. Under the pre-2002 version of the law, individuals only had until their 23rd birthday (5 years after reaching the age of 18) to file a lawsuit. Get specific info about these statute of limitations laws here.

As a result of these rather arbitrary time limits, many survivors of child molestation are simply out of luck. This is especially true for those whose abuse occurred decades ago. However, if Pennsylvania’s legislature reforms the statute of limitations law and passes a civil window, these individuals may be able to seek justice. However, if passed, that window would be 2 years like the one in Delaware.

Statute Of Limitations Reform
In Pennsylvania – Current Status

For the last 5-10 years, the Pennsylvania legislature has considered multiple bills which would amend statute of limitations laws for child molestation lawsuits. In each instance, the bills have failed to pass. Representative Mark Rozzi (D. Berks) has championed such bills. As a victim of priest sex abuse when he was a child, the issue is of particular importance to him. He’s been involved in major media efforts to increase awareness of one bill in particular, HB 1947.

HB 1947 had been under consideration in the most recent legislative session. As of October 25, 2016, the bill died in the House of Representatives. Initially, it passed through the House with great promise. HB 1947 was introduced after yet another major church scandal alleging large-scale sex abuse of 100s of children by priests. Earlier this year, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown came under fire after a special grand jury found that dozens of priests sexually abused children over a period of 50+ years.

When it comes to victims’ rights, HB 1947 was one of the most expansive bills. There were three main parts of HB 1947.

First, it would have amended both the criminal and civil statute of limitations for cases of child molestation. It would have completely abolished the criminal statute of limitations for most acts of child sexual abuse. With respect to the civil statute of limitations, it would have added another 20 years to the current time, i.e., the victim’s 30th birthday (for acts of child molestation that occurred after August 27, 2002).

Second, it would have created a new law making government entities liable for child molestation in cases where a government employee acted with gross negligence. Under current state law in Pennsylvania, state, city and county governments cannot be sued when a child is sexually abused due to the negligence of a government employee. For example, under state law, a child has no cause of action for being sexually abused in a foster home situation due to negligent placement in the home by county welfare employees. The child, however, may have legal rights under federal constitutional law.

Third, HB 1947 would have created a 2 year window. It would have afforded individuals, whose cases were already time barred, with the opportunity to file lawsuits for the child sex abuse they experienced. This part of HB 1947 was met with significant opposition from two main lobbying groups, church groups and insurance groups.

The Senate caved to such interests and removed this section from HB 1947. It then passed HB 1947 with additional changes and sent it back to the House which took no action on it. Supporters of the bill in the House, including Rep. Rozzi, have vowed to take action in the next legislative session. Learn more about HB 1947’s civil windows in child molestation lawsuits.

Seeking Justice – Negotiating For Change

In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff has a right to seek any reasonable remedy. In sexual abuse cases, written admissions of guilt may be sought. In addition, policy changes at the institutional level may be arranged. For instance, in a church sexual abuse case, employee training may be mandated or otherwise revised as part of the settlement process.

Claims for Financial Compensation

In addition, survivors of child molestation may seek financial compensation from the perpetrators who committed the acts and other parties, such as an organization or entity which allowed the abuse to occur. Schools, church organizations, youth organizations, etc. may be named as defendants and court ordered to pay financial damages to the plaintiff.

Related: Punitive Damages in Pennsylvania Sex Abuse-Assault Lawsuits

Our attorneys are passionate about statute of limitations reform. Most sexual abuse survivors need more, not less, time to confront their abuse. We stand with survivors in their pursuit of justice.

Jeffrey Laffey, Founding Partner

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases involving children?

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases involving children varies from state to state. In many states, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim reaches the age of majority (typically 18 years old). Some states have extended the time frame further to allow survivors of child sexual abuse additional time to come forward and file a civil lawsuit. It is essential to consult with an experienced attorney to understand the specific statute of limitations in your state and how it applies to your case.

What is the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases involving adults?

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases involving adults also varies by state. In some states, the time frame to file a civil lawsuit may be relatively short, while other states have longer periods. In certain situations, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or paused, for various reasons, such as the victim’s incapacitation or the perpetrator’s concealment of the abuse. An experienced attorney can help you understand the specific statute of limitations in your state and how it applies to your case.

Can the statute of limitations be extended in certain circumstances?

In some states, the statute of limitations can be extended under specific circumstances, such as the discovery of new evidence or if the victim was not aware of the abuse’s connection to their injuries. In recent years, several states have enacted laws that temporarily lift the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual abuse, allowing them to file lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that may have enabled the abuse. It is crucial to consult with an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases to determine if any exceptions or extensions apply to your situation.

How can Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan help me understand the statute of limitations in my sexual abuse case?

The attorneys at Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan have extensive experience representing survivors of sexual abuse and are knowledgeable about the specific statute of limitations for these cases in each state. Our team of former prosecutors can help you:

  • Determine the applicable statute of limitations for your case based on the state in which the abuse occurred and other relevant factors.
  • Identify any exceptions or extensions to the statute of limitations that may apply to your situation.
  • Evaluate your case and provide guidance on your legal options, considering the statute of limitations and other relevant factors.

With a national presence and a team of dedicated attorneys, Laffey Bucci D’Andrea Reich & Ryan is prepared to advocate for your rights and help you navigate the complexities of the statute of limitations in your sexual abuse case.