Pennsylvania Child Sex Abuse Law: The Statute of Limitations


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Victims of child molestation including victims of priest or clergy sex abuse deserve justice. However, overcoming the statute of limitations is not an easy task.

It takes great courage to come to terms with years of sexual abuse by a trusted family member such as a priest or member of the clergy. For most victims, this doesn’t happen until well into adulthood.

Some states’ statutes of limitation, like New Jersey, do not have a set number of years in which these types of claims must be made. However, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for a minor’s sex abuse case is the minor’s 30th birthday.

Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for sex abuse cases can be found at 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5533(b)(2). This statute specifies that victims of sex abuse who were under the age of 18 when the abuse occurred have until their 30th birthday to file suit.

Unfortunately, this statute is not retroactive. It only applies to cases where the victim turned 18 after the statute’s enactment, in 2002. In other words, it does not apply to cases of abuse where the victim was already 18 years old as of 2002. It only applies in cases where the victim turned 18 after 2002. Basically, if a minor suffered sex abuse before 2002, then the case must be filed before the 30th birthday.

For many sex abuse and priest and clergy sex abuse victims in Pennsylvania, this statute may bar their claim. However, there is one main exception to this statute – fraudulent concealment. A priest or clergy sex abuse victim may be able to bring suit after their 30th birthday if there is evidence that the victim relied on a defendant’s fraudulent concealment.

Proper investigation is crucial in analyzing sex abuse cases and the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania.

If you’d like to discuss your Pennsylvania or New Jersey priest/clergy sex abuse case with our crime victims lawyers, call Click To Call. Former sex crimes unit prosecutor and now civil crime victims lawyer, Brian Kent, always offers free, confidential consultations.

**This website does not provide legal advice.  Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case.  See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.