PA House Passes Sweeping Statute of Limitations Reform for Child Sex Abuse Victims (April 13, 2016)

Pennsylvania may join a growing list of states which have amended laws to help victims of child sex abuse seek justice in both the civil and criminal courts. House Bill 1947 now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to face major opposition.

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October 27, 2016 Legislative Update: HB 1947 died in the House earlier this week after attempts by the House to reconstruct the most critical part of the bill, the civil window. Stay tuned.

September 28, 2016 Legislative Update: After the Senate removed significant parts of HB 1947 in its original form, the House will try to reinsert the omitted sections. Get more here.

*For immediate release

Yesterday, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted 185-15 to pass House Bill 1947. If passed, HB 1947 would become one of the country’s most expansive, pro-victim child sex abuse statute of limitations laws.

HB 1947 Explained – How HB 1947 Would Change Current Statute of Limitations Laws in Child Molestation Cases

Criminal Statute of Limitations

HB 1947 would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for most acts of child sex abuse or molestation. The new law would take effect 60 days after the law is passed and would not be retroactive due to constitutional protections. This means it would only apply to instances of criminal conduct that occur after its effective date.

Related: Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations Laws for Child Sex Abuse – Time for Change in 2016

Civil Statute of Limitations

HB 1947 would tack on 20 years to the current civil statute of limitations–the time child sex abuse victims have to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and other parties such as an employer who allowed the abuse to occur. If passed, HB 1947 would give victims until their 50th birthday to file a civil lawsuit. Currently, the law gives victims until their 30th birthday, if the molestation occurred after August 27, 2002. However, HB 1947 would apply retroactively. This means that someone who was the victim of child sex abuse has until their 50th birthday to file a civil lawsuit, no matter when the abuse occurred. HB 1947 would effectively supersede the current limitations period.

HB 1947 was introduced on April 4, 2016 and has passed through the House at lightening speed compared to similar bills in the past. For much of the last decade, countless Pennsylvania legislators have attempted to get traction on pro-victim statute of limitations reform bills which were introduced in response to several child molestation scandals involving schools and churches across the state. Most recently, the Archdiocese of Altoona-Johnstown has come under fire for allegedly allowing hundreds of children to be sexually abused over the course of many decades. Many of those cases cannot be prosecuted civilly or criminally because of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations laws.

HB 1947 is now headed to the Senate, where it will face some tough opposition from religious organization lobbyists and the insurance industry.

Contact Your Local Senators – Tell Them You Support Victims Rights

If you live in Pennsylvania, please take a moment and contact your local legislators, especially your local senators.

Below, we’ve listed some key senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not been keen on reforming statute of limitations laws in favor of victims. If you live in their districts, please reach out to them and tell them you support HB 1947.

1. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (Serving parts of Montgomery & Bucks Counties), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

711 York Road
Willow Grove, PA 19090
(215) 657-7700

2. Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr. (Serving parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties), Vice-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

3818 Germantown Pike
Collegeville, PA 19426
(610) 831-8830

3. Joseph B. Scarnati III (Serving Cameron, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Mckean, Potter and Tioga Counties), Ex‑Officio of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Senate Box 203025
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3025
Room: 292 Main Capitol
(717) 787-7084

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