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A: Clergy sexual abuse and assault lawsuits in Pennsylvania are very complex and depend on a whole host of legal issues. One of the most critical issues is whether the case is barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in civil child molestation cases in Pennsylvania may vary, depending on when the abuse took place. That’s because Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations laws have been amended.

In August 2002, Pennsylvania’s legislature amended the statute of limitations in child sex abuse lawsuits (civil cases). Prior to the 2002 amendments, the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases was 5 years after the child/victim turned 18. The amendments were sparked by a Grand Jury report of pervasive sexual abuse by priests in the Philadelphia area.

Under the amendments which can be found at 42 Pa. C.S. 5533 Section (b)(2)(ii), victims of sex abuse who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred now have 12 years after they turn 18 to file suit.  In a nutshell, survivors of child sex abuse including priest abuse have until their 30th birthday to file a lawsuit. However, this only applies to minors who were abused after the amendments took effect, August 27, 2002. Read more about the 2002 amendments here.

As discussed, the “success” in a priest child sex abuse case depends on many factors, such as whether the statute of limitations has run, who the defendants are, the strength of the evidence, etc. But most importantly, success in a priest sex abuse case depends on what the victim is seeking. Some victims seek an admission from the abuser, and others seek to have their day in an open courtroom where the abuser has to face judgement after the victim has an opportunity to recount what happened to them. In some cases, there is financial recovery for the victim. Each case is truly unique and success depends on the needs of the victim.

Related: Steps Involved in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey Child or Priest Sex Abuse Civil Lawsuit

For more information, contact the Pennsylvania priest and clergy abuse lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent. (866) 641-0806 – Philadelphia

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Published: July 30, 2012

Last updated: July 9, 2015