How Long do I have to File a Clergy Abuse Lawsuit in California?

Posted on: October 2, 2020 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

How long you have to file a clergy abuse lawsuit in California is a common question. For some California clergy abuse survivors, it may take years, even decades to recall the abuse since traumatic events suffered as a child are often suppressed. Even those who haven’t repressed those memories often still need many years to process the pain and receive treatment or counseling before they are ready to share their stories.

In either situation, if a survivor decides to seek accountably through compensation, years, or even decades after the abuse, they may wonder if it is too late to file a clergy abuse lawsuit for childhood sexual abuse in the state of California. The time in which a person has to file a civil claim is set by each state and is commonly referred to as the statute of limitations. Knowing if you can sue the Roman Catholic Church in California will depend on California’s statute of limitation laws.

For informational purposes only, below is a summary of California’s statute of limitations laws. If you have been a victim of child sex abuse, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred, you should contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney to help you determine if your claim is within statute. There are often outside factors, beyond the laws listed below, that may affect the amount of time you have to file a claim.

Call us now at 1-800-941-7209 for a FREE and PRIVATE consultation.

California Statute of Limitations for Clergy Sexual Abuse

Studies have shown that only about 34% of child-sexual-abuse victims in the United States tell authorities of their abuse before adulthood, which means a large majority of survivors need time before they will come forward, if at all. Since a statute of limitation sets the time frame where legal action can be pursued, the time specified by many states’ statute of limitation laws does not always provide adequate time for childhood victims to file civil claims against their abusers or the organizations responsible, which creates a barrier for survivors to seek justice through the legal system.

In California, however, legislators have been extremely pro-active, passing a number of progressive statute of limitations changes giving those affected by clergy sexual abuse the time needed and the ability to sue an individual clergy member, and/or the diocese(s) responsible for covering up, or failing to protect children from ongoing abuse.

The summary table below shows California’s current civil statute of limitation laws which dictate how long a survivor of sexual abuse has to file a claim. The 3 general categories associated with statute of limitation limits include:

  1. Age Cap: The ‘Age Cap’ refers to the age in which a childhood sexual abuse victim has to file a claim. In California, a person has until age 40.
  2. Discovery Rule: Some states include a ‘Discovery Rule’ as part of their statute of limitations laws which allows victims who have suppressed the memories of their abuse, the opportunity to still file a claim once the connection is made. California has a 5-year discovery rule, meaning that once a survivor has recalled his or her abuse, he or she has 5 years in which to file a civil claim.
  3. Revival Law: Revival law, commonly referred to as creating a ‘Revival Window’, allows victims that previously would have fallen outside the current, and any new statute of limitations laws, a finite amount of time to file their claims. In 2019, California legislators passed a 3-year window, which gives any child sexual abuse survivor, regardless of his/her age, and regardless of when he/she recalled the abuse, the ability file a claim against his/her abuser and those organization(s) who may also be responsible.

How Long to File In California Sexual Abuse

More information about California’s civil and criminal statute, revival window, along with a sampling of settlements and payouts, and current news can be found on our main California sexual abuse page.

Note that California has a revival law that allows previously expired claims to be filed, but there is a strict deadline. The California revival law is set to close is Dec. 31, 2022.

Compensation for California Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors Outside of Court

Several dioceses around the country have created Independent Compensation Programs (“ICP”). These compensation programs are set up by a single diocese, or a group of dioceses often within the same state, who together allow survivors to submit a claim directly with the Catholic Church and avoid filing a legal claim, and going to court. That claim is then reviewed by an independent claims administer, who was chosen and approved by the diocese, who then decides if that claim is eligible for compensation through the program.

In California, six of the twelve dioceses have set up this type of settlement program. Those dioceses included:

  • Archdiocese of Los Angeles
  • Diocese of Fresno
  • Diocese of Orange
  • Diocese of San Bernardino
  • Diocese of San Diego
  • Diocese of Sacramento

Though the new claims deadline for these six dioceses expired in February of 2020, survivors should know options are still available. In addition, not every case will need to go to trial or even be filed in court. An experienced clergy sexual abuse attorney can help you fully understand the options available to you in California so that you may proceed with your claim in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.

Sexual Abuse Lawyer for California Clergy Abuse Victims

If you or a loved one were a victim of sexual abuse within the California Dioceses, contact our firm today. Our law firm handles California sexual abuse lawsuits and can help you understand how long you have to file a clergy abuse claim in the state of California. Call us now at 1-800-941-7209 for a FREE and PRIVATE consultation.