Lifting Child Sex Abuse Time Bar Could Bring Claims, Complications
By Max Mitchell and Ben Seal
April 15, 2016
If a bill aimed at lifting time restrictions in civil and criminal child sex abuse cases becomes law, a wave of new prosecutions and civil suits could wash over Pennsylvania. But according to attorneys, the litigation wouldn't be without complications.
HB 1947, sponsored by Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, easily cleared the House of Representatives on a 180-15 vote April 12. If enacted, it would increase the statute of limitations from 12 to 32 years upon turning 18 for victims to bring claims for civil damages. It would also eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions tied to child sexual abuse.
According to attorneys working in the civil and criminal arenas, opening up new avenues for pursuing decades-old cases could lead to evidentiary complications, potential constitutional challenges and res judicata issues, among other things.
Plaintiffs attorneys lauded the bill, but also noted its complications.
Ross Feller Casey attorney Matthew Casey, who represented several victims of serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, said the bill would be "an enormously positive and just development," but he agreed with other attorneys that any new cases brought following a change in the statutes would be inherently difficult cases because they would involve much older incidents.