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California has joined other states across the nation and expanded the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assault. In October Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation giving victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 40, or five years from discovery of the abuse, to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26, or within three years from discovery of the abuse. The new law also suspends the statute of limitations for three years — beginning Jan. 1 — giving victims of all ages time to bring lawsuits if they wish.

New York and New Jersey passed similar laws this year, and other states such as Maine, Delaware and Utah, which have completely abolished civil statutes of limitations in these kinds of cases.

Attorneys in California predict that thousands of lawsuits will be filed against alleged child molesters as well as the institutions that employed them under the new law.

In 2003 California lifted the statute of limitations for one year and resulted in almost 1,000 lawsuits, the majority against the Catholic Church. The church paid $1.2 billion to settle those suits. Since then there has been a heightened awareness nationwide and victims have become much more willing to speak up. The Catholic Church faces an avalanche of litigation.

With over 10 million Catholics in California, more than any other state, this issue is of critical importance. In Pennsylvania the recent grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church listed hundreds of accused clergy and detailed 70 years of misconduct and church response across that state. More than a thousand children were sexually abused, but most of what was learned about clergy sex abuse and cover-up in Pennsylvania concerned victims whose statutes had expired. Priests who raped children, and the church that covered it up, may never be prosecuted.

At Saunders & Walker we have a long history of representing victims of sexual abuse by clergy.If a priest or another member of a church sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact Saunders & Walker at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.

 

 

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