Maryland Statute of Limitations for Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases

Posted on: February 19, 2021 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

How long you have to file a clergy abuse lawsuit in Maryland is a common question. For some Maryland clergy abuse survivors, it may take years, even decades, to recall the abuse since traumatic events suffered as a child are often suppressed. Even survivors 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.

Whatever the situation, if a survivor decides to seek accountably by filing a legal claim, years, or even decades after the abuse, they may wonder if it is too late to file a childhood sexual abuse case against a clergy member in Maryland. The time in which a person has to file a civil case is set by each state and is commonly referred to as the statute of limitations. Knowing if you can sue a predator priest or other clergy member in Maryland will depend on Maryland’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 clergy sexual abuse attorney to help you determine if your claim is within the time frame set by the Maryland statute.

Below is a summary of Maryland’s statute of limitations laws. This is for informational purposes only. 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.

Maryland Civil 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 the statute of limitations sets the time frame where legal action can be pursued, the time specified by many states’ statute of limitations 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 Maryland, the civil statute of limitations for a victim of child sex abuse is age capped at 38 years old or 3 years after the perpetrator is convicted of a crime, whichever is later. There is no criminal SOL regarding child sexual abuse. The last major change came in 2017 when the age cap in civil cases was moved from 25 years old to 38 years old. A summary table of the current civil SOL’s is below.

Maryland legislators have been working to pass changes to the existing statute of limitations laws which would give those affected by clergy sexual abuse additional time needed to file a claim against an individual clergy member, and/or the Catholic Diocese(s) responsible for covering up, or/and failing to protect children from ongoing abuse. In 2021, bills were introduced in both the house and senate proposing to alter the definition of sexual abuse. Additionally, the bills propose, in civil actions relating to child sexual abuse, that claims may be filed within a new, retroactive window, allowing previously barred complaints before October 1, 2021, to seek a civil case against their abuser through a specified two-year window.

For Maryland childhood clergy abuse survivors this is a positive step forward. Similar laws have been enacted in other states, for example, New York passed the “Child Victims Act” and North Carolina passed the “SAFE Child Act”. Survivors in those states have used these windows to seek legal action.

The summary table below shows Maryland’s current civil statute of limitations laws which dictate how long a survivor of sexual abuse has to file a claim. Note however that this describes the current laws and does not reflect the bills legislators are currently trying to pass. The 3 general categories associated with statute of limitation limits include:

  • Age Cap: The ‘Age Cap’ refers to the age in which a childhood sexual abuse victim has to file a claim. In Maryland, the age cap was increased to 38 in 2017.
  • Discovery Rule: Some states include a ‘Discovery Rule’ as part of their statute of limitations laws which gives victims, who have suppressed the memories of their abuse, the opportunity to still file a claim once the connection is made rather than based on their age or the amount of time since the incident occurred. Since Maryland has no age cap, the discovery rule becomes irrelevant. At this time Maryland does not have a discovery rule.
  • Revival Law: Revival law, commonly referred to as creating a ‘Revival Window’, allows victims who previously would have fallen outside the current statute of limitations laws, a finite amount of time to file their claims. In Maryland, there is no current revival window law in effect, however, as mentioned above, legislators are attempting to pass one.

how long to file priest abuse case maryland

More information about Maryland’s civil and criminal statutes, examples of settlements and payouts, along with current news can be found on our main Maryland sexual abuse page.

Compensation for Maryland Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors Outside of Court

Several dioceses around the country have created Independent Compensation Programs (“ICP”). These compensation programs can be 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 claim administrator, chosen and approved by the diocese, who then decides if that claim is eligible for compensation through the program.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has a program which provides survivors the opportunity to seek a monetary settlement mediated by a retired, non-Catholic judge. This compensation program has been in place since 2007.

Even though the Archdiocese of Baltimore has an in-house compensation program, it doesn’t mean this is the only avenue, or best avenue for seeking monetary compensation. An experienced clergy sexual abuse attorney can help you fully understand the options available to you so that you may proceed with your claim in a way that makes you feel most comfortable.

Sexual Abuse Lawyer for Maryland Clergy Abuse Victims

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