Douglas McLeod, Minnesota law extends sexual abuse filing window, puts pressure on archdiocese, Business Insurance
Before the clergy abuse scandal erupted in the 1980s — costing Catholic dioceses more than $2.3 billion to date — most states required plaintiffs to bring childhood abuse claims within a few years of turning 18. In recent years, though, about one-third of the states have extended or eliminated civil statutes of limitations for childhood abuse, said to Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.
Many states, for instance, enacted “discovery” rules under which the statute of limitations clock doesn’t start ticking until a plaintiff realizes he or she was harmed by childhood abuse. Connecticut and Massachusetts have retroactively allowed plaintiffs up to age 48 and 53, respectively, to file claims, Ms. Hamilton noted.
Window laws, retroactively waiving statutes of limitations for periods of one to three years, have been enacted in five U.S. jurisdictions: California, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii and Minnesota. Hawaii, which created a two-year window in 2012, renewed it for two more years last year.
The laws are needed to redress unfair treatment of abuse victims shut out of court by antiquated time limits, argues Ms. Hamilton, who supports statute of limitations reforms.
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