Pennsylvania Moves Towards Justice for Child Sexual Abuse Victims
On Wednesday, January 27, House Bill 14 overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 187-15, which could lead to a temporary lifting of expired statute of limitations for some child sexual abuse victims, allowing them to file civil suits. The measure would create a two-year window during which civil lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse may be filed in court – notwithstanding any statute of limitations that had prevented such filings. Similar measures have passed in New York, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, and Hawaii among other states.
The bill calls for amending the Pennsylvania constitution to create the “window” for victims to pursue claims, and it will requires voter approval. It is a companion piece to an effort launched in 2018 by state Rep. Mark Rozzi to reform the state’s child sex crime laws in the wake of a set of stunning investigations into clergy sex abuse in Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.
If House Bill 14 passes Senate, it could be on the ballot in May 2021. The Pennsylvania Senate judiciary committee has already approved a companion version of the legislation that passed the House Wednesday, and both chambers approved the proposed amendment last legislative session as well. The General Assembly must approve proposed state constitutional amendments in two consecutive sessions.
The proposed amendment to open a window for lawsuits comes after years of campaigning by abuse survivors, including intense lobbying since a 2018 grand jury report revealed that church leaders in six of the state’s Catholic dioceses had covered up abuse by 300 priests that took place over decades. Rozzi, a survivor of childhood abuse inflicted by a member of the Catholic clergy, hailed, “Victims deserve their day in court. Victims have waited long enough.”
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of child sexual abuse throughout Pennsylvania. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of sexual abuse. We can help.