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Earlier this month the Pennsylvania House overwhelmingly passed a bill which will allow victims of child sexual abuse that have not yet reached the age of 50 to bring civil suits against their abusers, and any persons and institutions that enabled the abuse. The current law only permits suits until victims reach the age of 30, at which point the statute of limitation would bar such claims. House Bill 1947 also waives sovereign immunity for public institutions. This means that under the new law, state and local government entities, such as public schools, which were grossly negligent in permitting abuse may no longer be shielded from liability. This bill is currently being considered by the state Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to become law.
The current statute of limitations makes little sense, and this new law is a significant improvement. Because it can take years for victims of child abuse to work through the trauma of their experience, many do not come forward until well into adulthood. As a result, many cases of child abuse are never reported—much less ever reach court—because by the time a victim is emotionally and intellectually able to pursue justice it is too late. House Bill 1947 recognizes this shortcoming in the law and seeks to rectify it. This expansion of the statute of limitations will give many survivors of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania a chance at achieving justice in the courts that they otherwise would have been denied.
This law is a major step forward in the fight for justice for victims of child abuse in Pennsylvania. Lawsuits cannot repair the damage that has occurred, but holding perpetrators accountable in court allows victims a measure of control and a sense of closure over what has happened. Moreover, abusers and enablers of abuse owe victims compensation for the pain and harm they have caused, and civil lawsuits are the way to ensure that compensation occurs. House Bill 1947 will create a new opportunity for justice for victims of abuse that are over the age of 30, as well as those that may have a viable claim against a public institution. If you were a victim of child sexual abuse, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to understand how this new legislation may impact your rights.
Daniel P. Hartstein is a lead victims’ attorney in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania, and has successfully represented victims of childhood sexual abuse. He has a long record of success fighting for the rights of victims. Daniel is a charter member of the National Crime Victims’ Bar Association and has years of experience gaining victims of abuse the justice and compensation they deserve. If you were a victim of child sex abuse, it is imperative to understand your legal rights. If you have questions about your case, please contact The Law Offices of Daniel P. Hartstein at (215) 732-0306 for your free consultation.
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