Over the last several years, the Catholic Church has found itself embroiled in countless sexual assault claims as victims worldwide have stepped forward with allegations of abuse from within the church clergy. Many now-adults have recounted sexual assaults that occurred while they were still minors. The rampant upswing of abuse claims prompted a wave of legal actions from individuals seeking compensation and retribution from their perpetrators. Financial recovery in these claims included a wide range of considerations, such as:
Unfortunately, many victims initially found it difficult to hold individual clergy members, church leadership, and the church itself accountable for what happened to them as children. Outdated legislation made it easy for church clergy to perpetrate sexual abuse against minors, with varying levels of impunity. Previous laws provided immunity to both non-profit organizations and public figures, making it virtually impossible for victims to file civil suits against the Catholic Church and its ministry. Additionally, statutes of limitations came into play, making it difficult for victims to seek justice from their perpetrators decades after the abuse occurred.
Outdated Laws Offered Immunity to Non-Profit Organizations and Public Figures
In 2019, landmark legislation changed the legal landscape for children sexually abused within the church. Jurisdictions across the country, including California, New York, and New Jersey, have signed into law amended legislation that makes filing civil lawsuits and seeking retribution easier for victims.
At AWKO law firm, our team of personal injury attorneys help sexual abuse survivors in California, New York, and New Jersey obtain the justice and compensation they deserve. For clergy abuse survivors in these states, knowledge is vital. Knowing the latest victim protection laws in CA, NJ, and NY, as well as pending deadlines for claims, allows survivors to use the civil justice system to hold the church and clergy accountable.
In October 2019, California, under Governor Gavin Newsom, signed Assembly Bill 218. Designed to help childhood sexual abuse survivors, Assembly Bill 218 offers several critical factors victims should know.
Assembly Bill 218 officially opened a lock-back window of three years for previously time-barred claims. This look-back window allows childhood sexual abuse victims of any age to file lawsuits against both abusers and the institution, regardless of when the events occurred.
Extended Statute of Limitations
California’s AB 218 also extends the civil statute of limitations to age 40, or anytime within five years of age 40 if discovering related psychological injury. Previously, California’s statute of limitations was fixed at 26 years of age or within three years of discovery of related psychological distress.
AB 218 also increases the total penalties survivors can wield against institutions that covered up assault. The Catholic Church has been widely criticized for dismissing claims and rotating accused clergy members’ placements to different locations to avoid blame. Under the new law, the Courts can triple total damages if it’s found that the church ignored abuse claims.
New Jersey also passed its own legislation delivering more opportunities for former abuse victims in 2019. Passed in December 2019, the New Jersey Child Victims Act (NJCVA) outlines several amendments of its own from previous laws, including:
Much like California’s “look-back” window, the NJCVA’s revival window allows New Jersey childhood assault victims to file a claim for up to two years.
Extended Statute of Limitations
Under NJCVA, the statute of limitations also changes for filing a claim. Under the new law, the statute of limitations extends to age 55, or up to seven years after discovering traumatic injuries resulting from the abuse, whichever is later.
Private or Public Institution Pursuit
Additionally, New Jersey Child Victims Act allows plaintiffs to file claims against any private or public institution involved in the abuse, asserting liability on the foundation and institution itself.
The New York Child Victims Act first came into effect in August 2019, empowering survivors of child sexual abuse to press charges against their abusers. Some essential details in the NYCVA include:
Initially, the look-back window was one year, scheduled to close in August of 2020. However, COVID-19 restrictions closed down the New York court systems, prompting Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign an executive order extension to 1/2021. Then the legislature passed an extension to 8/2021 that Cuomo signed, making it a law.
Extended Statute of Limitations
Previous New York legislation allowed survivors, beginning after their 18th birthday, one to five years to pursue legal accountability. However, it’s now widely recognized that many childhood victims struggle to come forward with the trauma endured when they were younger. As a result, the NYCVA provision enables plaintiffs to file a claim until they are 55 years old.
AWKO Law Helps Clergy Abuse Victims Receive Compensation For Their Trauma
Sexual abuse at any age can have a significant impact on victims. However, sexual assault suffered during childhood can cause physical, emotional, and financial distress victims carry for a lifetime. At AWKO, we know pursuing legal action against the individuals and institutions behind the trauma cannot eliminate a survivor’s pain. However, seeking financial damages can offer much-needed support and the comfort of knowing the offending parties have been held accountable for their crimes.
Civil litigation can also help shine a light on these heinous crimes and prevent further abuse from occurring. Recovering punitive damage due to intentional harm punishes perpetrators and can deter future sexual misconduct, protecting other children from becoming victims.
Contact AWKO Law Today to Learn More About AB 218 and Child Victims Act
If you or a family member has endured clergy abuse in California, New York, or New Jersey, AWKO Law Firm can help you leverage the civil justice system and current legislation to recover the punitive damages and compensation you’re entitled to from the Catholic Church and clergy members. Contact our personal injury lawyers today to discuss your claim and file a suit before the look-back window in your state closes.