A: First and foremost, only a qualified lawyer who interviews you will be able to tell you the answer to this very important question. The answer will depend on the dates when the abuse occurred. You don’t need exact dates, but the more clear your memory about the general dates, the easier it will be to determine the answer.
The Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations for Priest/Clergy Sex Abuse Cases
Under Pennsylvania injury law, there are two relevant statute of limitations periods which often come into play in a sexual abuse or molestation case. The first is the general 2 year statute of limitations which applies to cases in which the victim was an adult (over the age of 18) when the abuse occurred. The second is a special statute of limitations for victims who were minors when the abuse occurred. In general, under that special law, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for child sex abuse expires when a victim turns 30 years old. This means that someone who is the victim of child sex abuse has until their 30th birthday to file a civil claim. The statute of limitations in criminal child sex abuse cases is entirely different (the victim’s 50th birthday).
The special law was passed in 2002 and specifies that the statute of limitations expires 12 years after the victim turns 18 years old. However, the statute did not apply retroactively. In other words, victims who experienced child sexual abuse before 2002 may be barred from being able to file civil cases against their abusers. Basically, the special statute of limitations law applies to victims who experience acts of child sex abuse after the year 2002.
Under the law, victims who are currently near the age of 30 would only be allowed to file a civil claim if the abuse occurred when 1. they were under the age of 18, and 2. the abuse occurred after 2002. If the victim was already 18 years old in 2002, then one of the only ways to get around the statute of limitations is to prove one of the exceptions to statute of limitations, i.e., that there was some fraudulent concealment on the part of the abuser (priest) or the abuser’s employer (diocese).
There are some other exceptions to Pennsylvania statute of limitations laws such as mental incompetence at the time of the injury. Pennsylvania courts generally will not allow a theory of repressed memory to toll the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases. So in other words, a victim can’t use the theory that he or she was unable to discover the abuse because of repressed memories.
Fraudulent Concealment Exception to Pennsylvania’s Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations
Using the Catholic church abuse scandal as an example, in order for a victim to prevail and toll the statute based on fraudulent concealment, a victim must be able to point to statements or misrepresentations made by the priest or members of the diocese which caused the victim to cease making a legal claim.
Access free legal articles for more information about the Pennsylvania statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases and the fraudulent concealment exception to the statute of limitations.
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**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.
Last updated: December 1, 2014