Working for Justice

Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Civil Claims of Sexual Abuse Victims in Maryland?

Posted August 1st, 2018 by in Civil Litigation.

One of the biggest barriers to abuse victims’ pursuit of justice in Maryland is the strict time limits that victims have to file their claims (this is commonly called the “statute of limitations”). While research consistently demonstrates that most survivors of sexual abuse fail to report or disclose the abuse until they are at least 30 years old, most sexual abuse claims in Maryland are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. The exact deadline for filing an abuse claim in Maryland depends on when the abuse occurred (learn more about these deadlines in my recent post, “When Do the Civil Claims of Sexual Abuse Victims in Maryland Expire Under State Law?”.[1]

Thus Far, Attempts to Get Around the Statute of Limitations Have Failed

Despite promising efforts and recent hope among survivors and victim advocates that Maryland courts would interpret the statute of limitations in a way that would allow more victims’ claims to proceed, Maryland’s appellate courts have rejected every attempt to expand the time provided under the statute.

A recent example is a 2014 case in Montgomery County Circuit Court where victim advocates argued sex abuse victims who were experiencing or had experienced dissociative amnesia should receive more time to file their claims. The court found that, because the effects of a victim’s abuse prevented her or him from putting the abuse together with the emotional toll of the abuse, victims should be allowed to bring suit three years from the date on which she or he first connected their abuse and their harms.[2] The Court of Special Appeals (Maryland’s second highest appellate court) reversed this decision, affirming that the statute of limitations does not toll for victims of child abuse who had previously repressed memories of the trauma.[3] The ruling was appealed, but the Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) declined to hear the case. Even if the case were heard, it is unlikely that the Court of Appeals would have overruled its decision in Doe v. Maskell,[4] which affirmed that the statute of limitations does not toll for victims of child abuse who had previously repressed memories of the trauma.[5]

Maryland Victims of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy Can Seek Limited Compensation For Claims That Have Expired Under Maryland’s Statute of Limitations

The Archdiocese of Baltimore provides a mediation program for victims who were sexually abused by representatives of the Archdiocese (e.g., clergy) and whose claims have expired under Maryland’s statute of limitations.[6] The mediation program takes place in a non-adversarial setting, in which the Church offers an apology for the sexual abuse and offers the victim an opportunity to meet personally with the Archbishop.[7] The mediation takes place before a retired, non-Catholic Maryland Circuit Court Judge. This judge assists the parties in reaching a monetary settlement and oftentimes facilitates the Archdiocese’s commitment to continued counseling assistance for the victim.[8] Victims who are eligible and interested in utilizing this option should contact the Archdiocese’s Victims Assistance Line at 866-417-7469.[9]

If you were sexually abused in Maryland as a child, you should consult with a Maryland victim advocate or a Maryland child sexual abuse attorney to determine whether you may have a civil claim against the perpetrator and/or a third party. You may also be entitled to government compensation for counseling and/or other services (RAIIN and 1in6 are great resources for sexual abuse victims). Contact me at skelly@sanfordheisler.com or 410-834-7416 if you would like to have a free, no-obligation consultation.

Footnotes

[1] See, e.g., Ian Duncan & Pamela Wood, Hogan Signs Bill Giving Sexual Abuse Victims Longer to File Suits, Baltimore Sun (Apr. 4, 2017), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-sexual-assault-bills-pass-20170404-story.html.
[2] See Dixson v. Beattie, No. 375001-V, at *5 (Cir. Ct. for Montgomery Cty., Md., May 7, 2014).
[3] Scarborough v. Altstatt, 228 Md. App. 560, 578 (2016).
[4] See Doe v. Maskell, 342 Md. 684, 692-693 (1996).
[5] Scarborough v. Altstatt, 228 Md. App. 560, 578 (2016).
[6] About the Archdiocese’s Efforts to Protect Children and Promote Healing for Victims of Abuse, Archdiocese of Baltimore, https://www.archbalt.org/promise-protect-promote-healing/frequently-asked-questions-based-keepers/.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Child and Youth Protection, Archdiocese of Baltimore, https://www.archbalt.org/child-and-youth-protection/.

Steven J. Kelly

Steven J. Kelly

Mr. Kelly is Chair of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Criminal Sexual Violence Practice Group. He represents plaintiffs, especially those from traditionally marginalized groups, who seek justice as victims of violence. Learn More

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