State Senators Approve Child Victims Act
Senate Bill 686, which would remove the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits and allow survivors to file lawsuits regardless of when their abuse happened, passed with a 42-5 vote.
The Senate’s vote comes on the cusp of the public release of the Maryland Attorney General’s report on the history of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The 456-page report, which could be released any day now, details the sexual abuse of more than 600 victims, mostly children and young adults, at the hands of more than 150 priests and other clergy.
Maryland Governor Wes More has publicly expressed support for this proposal, and he is expected to sign it into law.
Procedural Hurdles in Injury Claims
The statute of limitations is just one way a church, insurance company, or another defendant can deny compensation to an injured victim before the court even addresses the merits of a claim.
The statute of limitations prevents victims from bringing older claims to court. Workarounds are available, like the delayed discovery rule. But these workarounds are only available in some cases.
Assume Jerry was sexually abused in 2012. Since his brain blocked most of the traumatic memories, he only remembered fragments. Over the next ten years, the fragments start coming together, but not enough to form a complete picture. In 2022, Jerry sees a new therapist who helps him fully recover those memories.
Under these facts, the two-year SOL countdown arguably didn’t start until 2022. The defendant, which in this case is the church, could easily convince a judge otherwise.
Even if the statute of limitations is a non-factor, other procedural motions are available in Maryland. Some of the more common ones are:
- Summary Judgment: One side, usually the defendant, argues that the other side, usually the plaintiff, doesn’t have enough evidence to prove or disprove its claim. A no-evidence summary judgment motion, which is similar, states that a plaintiff has no evidence on a key element of his/her claim.
- Judgment on the Pleadings: These motions force the judge to examine the legal paperwork as opposed to the evidence. Dick may plead that Jane broke his vase instead of pleading that Jane intentionally broke his vase. Usually, if the pleadings are deficient, the judge simply lets the plaintiff amend them.
- Directed Verdict: This motion focuses on the evidence as well. One side, usually the defendant, argues that even if the jury believed the plaintiff’s evidence, the proof was insufficient to support a verdict. So, the judge must “direct” jurors to enter an appropriate verdict.
Preparation is the key to obtaining favorable rulings on pretrial motions. In simple terms, when Baltimore sexual abuse lawyers do their homework, they typically do well on their final exams.
Elements of a Sexual Abuse Claim
As outlined above, the Child Victims Act would only open the door wider for these victims. Only an experienced Baltimore sex abuse survivor lawyer can walk through that door.
Any kind of abuse, sexual or otherwise, is an intentional tort. To obtain compensation, a victim plaintiff must prove the defendant acted with intent, and that intentional harm caused damage.
Circumstantial evidence is usually important in these matters. Usually, the only witnesses of the intentional tort were the tortfeasor (negligent actor) and victim. These individuals understandably recall the same event differently.
The burden of proof in a civil claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little circumstantial evidence goes a long way.
Free and Private Consultations with Baltimore Sex Abuse Survivor Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Baltimore fighting for justice and the rights of sexual abuse survivors, contact The Yost Legal Group when you are ready at 1-800-967-8529. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can start working for you.