Bill to extend statue of limitations for sex-abuse lawsuits faces key vote tonight

Providence Journal

May 28, 2019

By Katherine Gregg

A key legislative committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a bill to give the victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue their abusers, and the institutions that failed to protect the victims.

At its most basic, the legislation unveiled over the holiday weekend extends from seven to 35 years the statute of limitations on the pursuit of legal claims by adults against priests, Boy Scout leaders, teachers, coaches and others who sexually abused them as children.

There is, also an opportunity for people — unaware until even later in life of the harm they suffered — to file claims within seven years of making the connection, or more specifically: “seven years from the time the victim discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was caused by the act.”

Victims of child sexual abuse who missed deadlines for filing civil claims against their abusers would have had a three-year window to bring old cases to court under the original version of the legislation that Rep. Carol McEntee, D-South Kingstown, introduced this year.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and the insurance industry fought the proposed “revival window″ behind the scenes. Key lawmakers also voiced concern about the constitutionality of the window. They hung their arguments on a 1996 decision in a case known as Kelly v. Marcantonio “rising out of the alleged sexual molestation of minors by priests of the Catholic Church.”

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