Working for Justice

When Do the Civil Claims of Sexual Abuse Victims in Maryland Expire Under State Law?

Posted July 31st, 2018 by in Civil Litigation.

The #MeToo Movement has helped draw attention to abuse victims’ right to pursue civil claims against the perpetrators who abused them and the institutions (e.g., churches, child care centers, schools, universities, colleges, teams, and programs) who failed to protect them from being abused. The voices of survivors are growing. Still, abuse victims have not yet been given any leniency on their ability to bring claims that have expired under law.

In Maryland as with other states, one of the biggest barriers to abuse victims’ pursuit of justice is the strict time limits that a victim has to file their claims (this is commonly called the “statute of limitations”). Unfortunately, Maryland’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse is among the country’s worst. 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.[1]

  • For any minor abused before June 30, 1987, the victim has three years from the date of abuse to file their claims.[2]
  • For any minor abused between July 1, 1987 and September 30, 2000, the victim has three years from her or his 18th birthday to file their claims (up to age 21).[3]
  • For any minor abused between October 1, 2000 and September 30, 2010, the victim has seven years from her or his 18th birthday to file their claims (up to age 25).[4]

For any minor abused from October 1, 2010 to present, the victim has 7 years from her or his 18th birthday to sue a third party and she or he has 20 years from her 18th birthday (to age 38) to sue the perpetrator and any third party (e.g., church, school, etc.) if she or he can show that the third party was “grossly negligent.”[5] “Gross negligence” is defined as “an intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another, and also implies a thoughtless disregard of the consequences without the exertion of any effort to avoid them.”[6] Maryland courts have defined gross negligence narrowly and establishing gross negligence in the child sex abuse context will not be easy.

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]  Doe v. Roe, 419 Md. 687, 690 (2011).
[3] COURTS AND JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS—CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE—STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS EXTENSION, 2003 Maryland Laws Ch. 360 (S.B. 68) (repealed 2017). See Doe v. Roe, 419 Md. 687, 690 (2011).
[4] Id.
[5] Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-117 (West).
[6] See, e.g., Barbre v. Pope, 402 Md. 157, 187 (2007); Doe v. Roe, 419 Md. 687 (2011).

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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