Pennsylvania Lawmakers May Open Civil Window for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits


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For immediate release, May 15, 2015

The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a new law which would open a special window for survivors of child sex abuse. This isn’t the first time Pennsylvania legislators have tried to get this law passed. In 2013, a similar amendment was introduced but never made it out of the judiciary committee.

Senate Bill 770 would open a 2 year window for anyone whose civil lawsuit was previously time barred by Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations in civil sex abuse cases. This civil window would give molestation survivors the opportunity to seek justice. Similar windows have been opened in Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, and California.

What is a Civil Window in a Child Sex Abuse Case?

A civil window sets a specific period of time to allow an individual, whose civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and others was previously time barred due to the applicable statute of limitations, to file a civil lawsuit. Basically, survivors of child sex abuse, assault or molestation would be able to seek justice against direct perpetrators as well as other individuals or entities which allowed the abuse to occur.

Recently, Delaware and California passed civil window laws. As a result, a major case was filed and resolved in Delaware. That case involved decades old allegations of sexual abuse by a man who went on to become a state court judge in Wilmington, Delaware. Using the civil window, the survivor of the child sex abuse was able to file a civil lawsuit, and eventually succeeded (the criminal statute of limitations had already expired). The judge admitted to the abuse, was removed from the bench and subsequently disbarred.  Interestingly, no lawyers in Delaware would agree to take the case. However, noted civil sex abuse lawyer, Brian Kent, agreed to take the case and secured justice for his client.

The Importance of Civil Windows in Helping Survivors of Abuse

Child molestation is one of the most horrendous acts of abuse. Victims are often deeply scarred in ways most of us can never begin to understand. Perpetrators are often people in positions of authority, such as priests, teachers, trusted family friends, etc. In addition, perpetrators groom their victims, gaining their trust and the trust of the victim’s parents. As a result, survivors of child sex abuse and assault are often unable to come to terms with the abuse. It often takes decades for an individual to remember and fully process the abuse, much less take legal action. Unfortunately, survivors of child sex abuse often find that when they are ready to take action, their cases are barred by statute of limitations laws, many of which are outdated.

The reality is that outdated statute of limitations laws in this country protect sexual predators. In response to recent high profile media reports of major sexual abuse scandals in churches and schools across the country, many state legislatures have amended statute of limitations laws. However, the amendments do nothing to help those whose cases are already time barred. Rather, amendments only apply to future cases. Many states have considered civil windows, but few states have actually passed these laws.

Related: Pennsylvania Child Sex Abuse Reporting Law – Major Changes, Effective December 31, 2014

Please Help Victims of Child Molestation Get the Justice They Deserve

You can help victims of child sex abuse and molestation to get justice by contacting your local legislators. Tell them you support SB 770.