HB 963: Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Update in Pennsylvania
Determining whether your sexual abuse case in Pennsylvania is viable under the statute of limitations is a fairly complicated determination.
Presently, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania requires sexual abuse victims bring claims before they turn 55 years old.
That means if you were sexually abused in Pennsylvania and you are seeking to pursue a civil case against a church, school, medical provider, or some other business or organization that you believe is responsible for your abuse, you must do so before you turn 55 years old.
Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse
However, determining if your case is viable is not quite that simple.
In 2019, the state of limitations for bringing a sexual abuse case in Pennsylvania was changed from age 30 to age 55, and the new change in the law was not retroactive.
In summary, that means if your case was time barred before 2019 (i.e., you turned 30 years old or older in 2019 before the new law was enacted) it is not revived by the new law extending the age to 55.
Hope should not be lost though if your case is presently time barred.
For the past several years victim advocates throughout Pennsylvania, including the lawyers at Andreozzi + Foote and their clients, have been pressing Pennsylvania’s legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims. We have advocated for a two year “window,” that would temporarily suspend the statute of limitations for two years and allow all victims, regardless of their age, to seek justice against those responsible for allowing them to be abused.
We had hoped that this law could be passed through a traditional legislative process, but opponents of the window argued that it would be unconstitutional to pass a retroactive window.
Rep. Mark Rozzi, a client of Andreozzi + Foote, a clergy abuse survivor, and the long-time leader of the statute of limitations reform movement in Pennsylvania teamed up with Rep. Jim Gregory, himself a survivor, to create a new approach to legislative reform. Rozzi and Greggory introduced HB 963, a constitutional amendment, that open a two year window for survivors of sexual abuse to pursue civil cases.
Because the proposed window was now in a constitutional amendment opponents could not argue it was unconstitutional.
HB 963, the constitutional amendment creating a two year civil window received wide spread support from legislatures on both sides of the isle. It easily passed votes in both the House and Senate in the 2019-2020 legislative session. However, in order for the two year window to be enacted, it must pass another vote in 2021-2022 legislative session and also a referendum vote.
When will the vote on HB 963 take place in Pennsylvania?
On December 15, 2020, Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Lisa Baker promised that the window “is a top priority and will be considered at the first meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year.” She added “[a]arbitrary age thresholds and time limitations established years ago are no longer sufficient to deal with the horrific and widespread cases of abuse that continue to surface.” It is believed that a vote in the 2021 session could come in January or February or 2021.
The final obstacle for the two year window in Pennsylvania for sexual abuse victims would be a referendum vote. This would involve the citizens of Pennsylvania voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the passage of the law.
It is believed that if the window gets to the citizens of Pennsylvania they will most certainly pass the law. It is unclear when the referendum vote would happen, but it is believed it could happen as early as Spring 2021.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in Pennsylvania, please call Andreozzi + Foote at 1 (877)-214-3238. In addition to supporting legislative reforms like the window, we have represented hundreds of sexual abuse survivors in Pennsylvania, including Rep. Mark Rozzi, over a dozen victims of Jerry Sandusky, and many other who were abused in churches, schools, day care, and other organizations and businesses
If you would like us to evaluate your case please call 1 (877)-214-3238 for a free consultation.