Washington Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
While Washington has made some changes to its legislation in order to help survivors of sexual abuse and assault get justice against their abuser, it falls short as compared to other states across the country when it comes to the laws allowing for civil claims against abusers and their institutions. While some of these laws are quite restrictive, experienced lawyers handling sexual abuse claims in Washington are still often able to seek compensation against sexual predators, including clergy members, and the Catholic church.
Below you will find information on Washington’s statute of limitations laws. These laws are important because they dictate how long a lawyer handling Washington sexual assault cases has to file a claim on behalf of a survivor. In addition, we’ve compiled a list of Washington settlements received by sexual abuse and assault survivors.
Washington Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse & Assault
Washington has made modest changes to its statute of limitation (SOLs) laws with all those changes coming to its criminal SOLs. Washington remains one of the worst states in the country for its civil SOL laws for sexual abuse victims.
Criminal Statute of Limitation Laws for Washington
In 2009, Washington extended the criminal SOLs for all sex offenses to age 28 and then in 2013 raised it to 30. In 2017, it expanded that statute to include commercial sex abuse and also extended the SOL for sex trafficking to 10 years from the crime. In 2019, the criminal SOL for incest was also raised to age 30. In the same year it eliminated the SOL completely for rape, sexual misconduct, child molestation and sexual exploitation. Child USA, who has evaluated every state based on their criminal statute of limitation laws, gave Washington a Criminal SOL score of 3, on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the highest. A score of 3 is defined as a criminal SOL eliminated for felonies only.
Civil Statute of Limitation Laws for Washington
While Washington state has made significant strides in expanding its SOLs laws to help survivors pursue criminal claims against their abusers, no changes have been made to its civil SOL laws for sex abuse victims since 2002. Currently Washington civil SOL is age 21 or 3 years from discovery. “Discovery” allows a person diagnosed with a condition or illness, related to his/her abuse, to have the statute of limitations date start on the date of the diagnosis or when the connection was made between the two. Washington has yet to pass a window to allow victims with expired claims to come forward.
Child USA, who has also evaluated every state based on their civil statute of limitation laws, gave Washington a Civil SOL Age Cap score of 1, on a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the highest. A score of 1 is defined as a civil SOL age cap of 25 years old or younger for survivors.
If you or someone you love was sexually abused or assaulted in Washington, contact us now. Due to Washington’s discovery rule and statute of limitations laws, those sexually abused as a minor may still have a claim against their abuser, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Even if the abuser is deceased, you may still have a claim against the organization responsible.
Go to our main sexual abuse page to learn more about the process of filing a priest sexual abuse claim.
Washington Sexual Abuse Settlements & Jury Awards
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Seattle, Spokane and other religious orders and brotherhoods have paid out over $75,000,000 to sexual abuse survivors. Below outlines the timelines of those settlements.
September 2003 – The Archdiocese of Seattle agreed to pay $7,870,000 to compensate 15 sexual abuse victims involving Rev. James McGreal. One of the plaintiffs who was part of the original suit refused to settle, stating he wanted the case to go to trial because he wants to hold the archdiocese accountable. The Vatican decreed permanent suspension in 2004. McGreal died in August of 2011.
December 2004 – The Archdiocese of Seattle settled 12 additional claims of sexual abuse by priests for $1,800,000. Eleven of the twelve claims involved Rev. James McGreal. McGreal allegedly abused at least 40 victims from the 1960s to the mid-1980s which resulted in multimillion settlements paid by the archdiocese. He was also part of the September 2003 settlement listed above. The twelfth claim involved Rev. David Jaeger who admitted to inappropriately touching a minor at a youth camp in 1978. He was voluntarily laicized in November of 2005, died in 2014, but was still buried with full rites.
June 2005 – The Archdiocese of Seattle settled 4 additional claims of sexual abuse for $1,700,000. The claims involved 2 men and 2 woman who were victimized by two priests, Gerald Moffat and Edmund Boyle. One man’s allegation claimed that Moffat molested him in the 1970s during the time he was 11 to 13 years old. In 2003 the man committed suicide in the parking lot of the Holy Family Church in Kirkland where the abuse occurred. His family settled his claim for $600,000. The remaining $1,100,000 was paid to 3 siblings who were abused as children in the 1950s by Boyle while he was working in the St. James Church and school where they attended.
August 2005 – The Archdiocese of Seattle, along with a Kansas religious order, settled a claim for $2,600,000 with 7 men who accused Rev. John Forrester of molesting them as altar boys. The abuse is said to have occurred during camping trips and other outings. Forrester died in 2002 prior to the settlement agreement. He is also listed on the Davenport Iowa Diocese’s list of credibly accused priests.
April 2006 – The Seattle Archdiocese agreed to a settlement of over $1,000,000 to two brothers who accused John Cornelius of repeatedly molesting them during the 1970s when they were teenagers. The lawyers for the brothers pointed out that Cornelius was transferred from Boise to Seattle, with the knowledge that he was a ‘problem’, but no one took any steps to address it. Cornelius was defrocked by the Vatican.
January 2007 – In one of the most controversial settlements, Catholics in the Spokane Washington area were asked to participate in a fundraiser in the amount of $10,000,000 to compensate the sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church. Unlike other settlements across the country, failure to raise these funds would result of the closing of Catholic churches and schools. The total settlement for nearly 180 victims of clergy sexual abuse, in the amount was $48,000,000, was part of an approved bankruptcy plan for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane. The $48 million was pooled together from insurance policies, parishioner gifts and cash from the sale of church assets and property. Unfortunately, the total amount needed to pay its victims was not properly calculated. The settlement fund was drained early after those in charge allowed some victims to file late claims, without having calculated the cost of those claims in the total. In 2012, parishioners of Spokane parishes were asked to help raise another $1.5 million to cover the church’s debts. Note that the names of the priests included in this settlement were not released.
February 2007 – A $1,900,000 settlement was paid by the Christian Brothers of Ireland and the Seattle Archdiocese to five men who were abused by Edward Courtney in the 1970s while they were O’Dea students.
January 2008 – A $4,800,000 settlement was reached between 16 Native Americans and the Jesuit order of the Northwest to resolve claims against a Jesuit priest and a brother, Rev. John Morse and Brother James Gates. The sexual abuse occurred while they were students, at a now closed boarding school, St. Mary’s Mission and School, on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak.
January 2009 – The Seattle Archdiocese along with the Congregation of Christian Brothers agreed to pay $7,000,000 to 13 men abused as students at Briscoe Memorial School in Kent in the 1960s. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that there was overwhelming evidence that the school knew there was a problem and that children were being harmed there.
*The settlements listed above are offered for educational purposes only and do not guarantee any future outcome or settlement. Each legal situation is different, and past performance does not guarantee future results. We do not maintain that is a full list of all settlements in the state of Washington but merely a grouping of those we choose to share on our website. Please contact us if you would like additional settlements included or if you notice any inaccuracies on our site. We strive to provide our viewers the most up to date and accurate information as possible.
Click to view our larger list of accused priests. Here you can search by accused clergy first and last name, Parish/Diocese, city and state, and even by the years of their assignments.
Washington Sexual Abuse Lawsuits: News & Updates
In addition to establishing an independent commission to investigate the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholica church, a group of Catholics in Seattle are also demanding that all records and files related to sexual abuse matters be released by the church and provided to the commission so that a comprehensive report can be created. Click the headline to read more…