For the past generation, the repeated sexual abuse of young children by various religious organizations has made headlines worldwide. Many organizations have investigated Catholic Church Clergy Sexual Assault in particular, including Maryland’s Attorney General.
In general, these allegations claim that the churches were negligent not only in allowing these instances of sexual abuse to occur but in taking active steps to cover up the damage and protect their clergy members. While church leadership may decline to act, the secular court system can still help victims of abuse fight for justice.
One way to do so is to file a civil claim for damages against the church for allowing this abuse. Laws concerning the time limits to pursue these cases even allow people who suffered abuse as children to bring lawsuits as adults. Currently, the law in Maryland regarding the time to file a claim for past clergy or sexual abuse is about to be extended and potentially signed into law by Governor Wes Moore. If this change occurs, there will be a window of about two years to bring new claims that were previously time barred.
Maryland clergy sexual assault lawyers can help individuals who survived the abuses of members of churches, including the Maryland Catholic Church). KBA’s sexual abuse victim attorneys can investigate the instances of abuse, uncover any role the church played in covering up the scandal, and seek appropriate payments in settlement talks and in court. KBA’s sexual assault team, which includes attorneys licensed in other states like NJ, PA, NC, and DC, will work in conjunction with our Maryland-licensed attorneys to litigate these cases should the law change.
What Obligation Does the Church Have to Keep Children Safe?
Churches occupy an interesting position in the legal world. On the one hand, they are a religious group that offers services in the community. On the other hand, they are an employer of priests and other clergy members who interact with the public. When churches offer positions to members of the congregation, such as altar boys, they assume a duty to care for the well-being of these children. Consequently, the churches also have a duty to oversee the actions of its employees, i.e., the clergy.
Since employers are liable for the actions of their employees that harm other people, churches are liable for sexual abuse that their clergy members commit against congregants. In fact, churches have admitted as such on many occasions by paying out settlements to people who were the victims of abuse as children. There is a long history of documentation within the Catholic Church of manipulation, willful disregard of known complaints of sexual abuse, and redistribution of credibly accused actors within their organization. A Maryland clergy sexual assault attorney can provide more information about the history of abuse and the legal connections that allow victims to seek compensation.
Economic Consequences of Clergy Abuse
Since the 1980s, the Catholic Church has paid more than $3.8 billion in settlements and monetary awards. The survivors of Catholic Church sex abuse struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse, and there are hundreds of victims that have committed suicide. This horrific crisis has created an enormous financial loss that far exceed the settlement money. These economic consequences to the community include:
- Lost Wages
- Increased Cost of Healthcare
- Financial Loss of Family Members
- Cost of Investigations
- Cost of Trying the Perpetrators
- Cost of Incarcerating the Perpetrators
- Cost of Managing Paroles
When Might a Lawsuit for Damages be Appropriate?
Not all of the foregoing economic consequences are recoverable in a lawsuit by survivors against the Church or other religious orders who have allowed sex assaults to occur. Generally, one is able to recover for past and future income loss, the value of past and future medical services to treat the survivor’s injuries, and past and future pain and suffering (non-economic damages). The latter is subject to a damages cap in Maryland and other states depending on the timing. A lawsuit for these damages is not always possible.
The misdeeds of churches in relation to sexual abuse have come to light in the past decades. However, that does not mean that instances of abuse did not occur before this. Nor does it mean that sexual abuse does not still occur. This created an interesting legal dilemma since traditional statutes of limitations laws controlled how long a person had to file for compensation following an injury.
Because these abusive acts often affected children, the true nature of the abuse may not become apparent for many years after the fact. Additional attempts by churches to cover up the abuses would leave victims unable to seek compensation under traditional statute of limitation laws.
According to Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code § 5-101, the current time limit after an incident resulting in an injury in most cases is three years after the event. In addition, state law also allows people who suffered abuse as children to bring lawsuits until they turn 21.
Thankfully, new prospective Maryland laws now look to rectify this problem. A proposed law would eliminate the statute of limitations in all examples of child sex abuse cases, which means that no matter when an incident of child sexual assault occurred, the victim can still can seek justice. A clergy sexual assault lawyer can provide more information about current Maryland law and potential changes in the future.
Let a Clergy Sexual Assault Attorney Help in the Pursuit of Justice in Maryland
The abuses of members of the clergy have received voluminous amounts of attention in the past 30 years. We now know that not only did many churches know about the sexual behaviors of their priests and pastors, but they took active steps to hide the truth. Finally, people are feeling comfortable about coming forward concerning their experiences and demanding justice.
A clergy sexual assault lawyer can help you seek compensation resulting from sexual abuse. Even if these instances occurred while you were a child, special state laws allow you to bring a claim for damages against religious institutions soon after becoming an adult. These claims can seek payments to compensate you for the emotional trauma and physical pain that often result from sexual abuse. Contact our team today to discuss your options as KBA Attorneys has been working on Clergy Sexual Assault cases for years and we have licensed Maryland KBA Attorneys working with this team to bring justice to Maryland.