Attorneys give insight on PA Supreme Court reviewing child sex abuse time limits decision
By Brian Sheehan
Local 21 News
March 03, 2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court says it will consider whether some victims of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church have a right to file lawsuits.
The announcement comes nearly two weeks after the Diocese of Harrisburg filed for bankruptcy.
The high court plans to consider whether survivors can sue Pennsylvania diocese’s for allegedly covering up sex abuse, even though statute of limitations in their cases ran out several years ago.
“I totally understand why they’re hearing it. This is an important case,” Rice’s Attorney, Richard Serbin, said.
Rice alleges church officials in the Altoona-Johnston Diocese concealed allegations she was sexually abused by a priest about 40 years ago.
“He was not sued for the actual sexual assaults upon young Renee because of the statute of limitations,” Serbin said.
Since the statute of limitations in Rice’s case ran out long ago, she can’t sue for sex abuse charges.
However, the state Superior Court previously ruled Rice could file a lawsuit for the alleged cover up.
“It was based on fraud, constructive fraud and the conspiracy to cover up that fraud,” Serbin said.
“The Diocese of Harrisburg has identified Rice as one of the primary reasons for the filing of their bankruptcy,” added attorney Ben Anderozzi.
The Diocese of Harrisburg filed for bankruptcy on February 19, 2020.
Anderozzi says if the Supreme Court overturns the Rice case, it’ll affect many of his cases in our area.
“If Rice is overturned, that means a lot of survivors who are presently in court would be kicked out of court and their cases would be terminated. So the Diocese of Harrisburg would face significantly less liabilities,” he added.
Anderozzi says if that’s the case, survivors still have hope stature of limitations reform could come in the form of a constitutional amendment as early as next year.
“That’s what they’re really hoping for. Because if the statute of limitations reform passes, the Rice case is essentially unnecessary,” Anderozzi said.
Anderozzi says the Rice case is so important since there’s no guarantee the legislature will pass a statute of limitations reform.