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What is the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania

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The short answer is that the law is in a state of flux right now. Unfortunately, this can make an already confusing situation even more unclear for survivors who are trying to find out if they can bring a viable claim.

The good news is that the efforts to change the current law are largely in survivors’ favor and that firms like Andreozzi + Foote are here to help survivors navigate the process.

First, it may be helpful to understand what the “statute of limitations” actually is. Then we can look to the future of the law in Pennsylvania to see how it may create opportunities for sexual abuse survivors of all ages to have their day in court.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania?

The statute of limitations is a time-limit that someone has to bring either a criminal charge or a civil claim. Once the allotted time has passed, the victim can no longer bring a claim. This means that the claim is “time-barred.”

There can be different time allotments for criminal charges and for civil claims. In addition, the statute of limitations will typically vary from state to state.

Current Civil Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse in PA

Civil claims differ from criminal charges because things like prison sentences or probation are not usually a result of the case. Instead, plaintiffs seek a judgment that may result in things such as damages being awarded, or an injunction being granted.

The civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse in Pennsylvania is split into two categories:

  • Survivors of childhood sexual abuse
  • Adult survivors of sexual abuse

In 2019, the statute of limitations was changed, increasing the time limit for all survivors:

  • Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have until age 55 to file claims
  • Adult survivors of sexual abuse ages 18-24 have until age 30 to file a claim
  • Survivors age 25 and up have two years after the abuse occurred to file a claim

Unfortunately, these adjustments are not retroactive. In other words, if you were a victim of sexual abuse before 2019, these adjustments to the statute of limitations would not apply to your case.

Instead, the former time limits would apply.

If you were a survivor of childhood sexual abuse prior to 2019, for example, you would have until age 30 to file a claim. All adult survivors would have just two years after the abuse to file a claim.

My claim is currently time-barred—is that it for me?

No. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse and your claim is currently time-barred, please, do not give up hope. At Andreozzi + Foote, we have been working alongside survivors and victim advocates for years to give victims of childhood sexual abuse a voice.

We have been part of a movement advocating for the legislator to pass a two-year “window” to suspend the statute of limitations. This would provide all victims of sexual abuse two years to file claims, regardless of their age or when the abuse occurred. This proposed legislation is currently working its way through the legislator.

(Left to right): Nathaniel Foote, Esq., Benjamin Andreozzi, Esq., and Veronica Hubbard, Esq.

Opponents of the window legislation have argued it would be unconstitutional if passed as a regular bill. The solution to this—a compromise between the proponents and opponents of the bill—was to propose the window in the form of a constitutional amendment.

The amendment process requires the amendment being approved by the legislator twice—once in the 2019-2020 term, and once more in the 2021-2022 term. After that, it would go to Pennsylvania voters for final approval.

This amendment—introduced as HB 963—enjoys large bipartisan support and easily passed the house and senate in 2019. It was on track to go to Pennsylvania voters as early as spring 2021 for final approval. It was widely believed (and still is) that if the amendment were to reach the Pennsylvania voters, it would pass.

Unfortunately, an administrative error recently upended that process, knocking the amendment back to square one.

Can the Two-Year Window Still be Passed?

The short answer is yes, there is still plenty of hope and support for the two-year window legislation. Momentum behind passing the window legislation remains strong and in many ways the error has galvanized support for its passing.

The two-year window is favored by many, including the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate.

In the legislator itself, the movement has been spearheaded by Rep. Mark Rozzi (D) and Rep. Jim Gregory (R), who are both survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

In addition, our firm, alongside our clients and other survivors, remain involved in the fight to establish the window legislation.

There are three main avenues still available to pass the legislation:

  • The quickest way would be to do what was first considered and pass a regular bill which opens the retroactive window. (Although this is probably the least likely as the original concerns of constitutionality remain.)
  • The second is for the legislature to pass an emergency constitutional amendment. This would require 2/3 of both the state senate and the house to approve the amendment. Then, the amendment would be allowed to be presented to Pennsylvania voters as soon as this year.
  • Finally, the amendment process could start over. This would require repeating the process described above. The legislator would approve the amendment twice and then send it to the voters for final approval. This option would open the window in 2023 at the earliest.

Whatever the course taken and however long it takes, Andreozzi + Foote remains dedicated and involved in the fight to give survivors a voice.

If you have questions regarding the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania or the viability of your sexual abuse claim, please contact Andreozzi + Foote at 866-311-8640.

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