Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts
Over the last two decades, the Catholic Church has been rocked by an unprecedented scandal regarding the molestation and sexual abuse of children by priests and the subsequent cover-up of these heinous crimes by their superiors. In 2018, a report from the Pennsylvania Attorney General revealed that more than three hundred priests had committed acts of abuse against upwards of one thousand children in the Commonwealth over the preceding seventy years. If you have faced sexual abuse at the hands of a priest in Pennsylvania, you are not alone.
If you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, you should consult with an experienced attorney for victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania like those at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin. Our lawyers can advise you regarding what options you have to file criminal or civil charges against your abuser and those who helped cover up their abuse. We will fight for you to work to get you the closure you need and deserve. Call us today at (814) 826-3586 for a free, completely confidential consultation.
Statute of Limitation on Suing the Catholic Church for Sexual Abuse or Misconduct in Pennsylvania
In November 2019, Pennsylvania passed a historic reform bill to expand the statute of limitations for civil cases and eliminate it for criminal cases against their abusers. Those who were minors when they were abused also now have until they are fifty-five years old to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser. Additionally, the statute of limitations on filing criminal charges for childhood sexual abuse has been completely eliminated and such charges can be brought any time. For individuals who were eighteen to twenty-three years old when the abuse occurred, they now have until they are thirty years old to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser, and twenty years from the date of the offense to file a criminal complaint.
As such, for victims whose statute of limitations has already expired, only criminal charges for abuse that occurred when the individual was under eighteen are not subject to any sort of statute of limitations. However, a June 2019 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case opened up the possibility that, even if the statute of limitations has expired on your abuse claim against the priest who abused you, you may still be able to sue the Catholic Church and its leaders who covered up the abuse.
Talk to a lawyer about whether you have time to file your claim.
Suing the Church and Individual Priests and Clergy for Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
While filing criminal charges against the priest who abused you can be satisfying in the sense that this person will finally be punished for their crimes, it does nothing to help you as the victim receive compensation for the abuse you suffered or the years of mental pain and anguish you may have experienced. Furthermore, even if the statute of limitations has not expired on your case against your abuser, most of these priests do not have the financial resources to personally pay out large settlements.
As such, experienced attorneys in Pennsylvania will focus civil suits in these cases on suing the Catholic Church itself, and the diocese in which the abuse occurred. It is incredibly common that diocesan officials knew of the abuse committed by priests under their watch and either did nothing to protect the victims or actively worked to cover up the abuse by moving the priests around to different parishes. By joining the Church in these lawsuits, we can often get our clients the compensation they need.
Lawsuits against the Church may be filed under several different theories, including negligence, fraud, and conspiracy. Seasoned attorneys for victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania will be able to look at the specifics of your case and understand which causes of action will give you the best chance of being compensated for the unimaginable pain you have suffered.
Independent Survivors Compensation Fund in Pennsylvania
Outside of the court system, the Church has established another way that survivors may receive compensation for the abuse they faced. Six Pennsylvania dioceses have set up Independent Survivors Compensation Funds where victims of any age can file a claim against the Church. These funds will be handled by an outside legal firm that will have the final say on all compensation decisions.
Victims are required to consult with an attorney before accepting a settlement offer from the funds. If you choose to receive a settlement from the funds, however, you must accept the firm’s decision as binding and agree to give up your right to file a separate civil suit related to the abuse. Our attorneys can help you navigate this process and advise you on whether it is right for you.
Damages Available for Sex Abuse by Catholic Priests in Pennsylvania
Those who were abused by a priest and had the Catholic Church ignore or cover up this abuse are often entitled to significant compensation in the form of damages. Damages that can apply to sexual assault cases include the following:
- Reimbursement of bills for physical or mental health care resulting from abuse
- Lost wages or earning potential if the abuse caused damage making it difficult to work
- Pain and suffering damages
- Punitive damages
Call Our Firm Today for a Free, Confidential Legal Consultation
One of the hardest parts of being a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted clergyman can be the feelings of shame and guilt that linger with you for years after the abuse occurred. It can be incredibly difficult for survivors of abuse to open up about what occurred to them. At The Law Office of Andrew Shubin, our compassionate attorneys understand that part of our job is to make sure you are comfortable speaking with us about issues that are hard to talk about. Our experienced attorneys for victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania will work tirelessly to ensure that you are compensated for the years of pain and suffering that could have been prevented if this institution had taken responsibility for the crimes occurring under their watch. Call our office today at (814) 826-3586 for a free consultation with a caring, understanding legal professional.