StolzenbergCortelli, LLP
Free Consultations  cta
Toll Free Number: 800-494-0889
Se Habla Español
View Our Practice Areas

Child Abuse Claims Against the Church -- A Need for Reform of NY's Statute of Limitations

According to an article in the Journal News along with many other media outlets, a priest affiliated with St. Margarets of Pearl River has been accussed of abusing a child.  Apprently, the incident occurred almost 30 years.  This story is troubling on multiple levels.  However, without discussing whether or not the claims are actually true, it raises a major problem with the state of the law in New York. 

New York's statute of limitations is considered to be among the most restrictive in the nation, giving victims of child sex abuse only until they are 23 years old to make a complaint. According to a report from Reuters, many other states have no time limit on filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits in cases of child sexual abuse, while others that do have time limits are much more generous. Pennsylvania, for example, allows civil charges to be filed until victims are 30 years old and criminal charges to be filed until victims turn 50.

Because of the trauma they suffer, victims of child sexual abuse often aren't able to report the crime or confront their abusers until they are well into adulthood. In some cases where victims and their families did attempt to make timely reports, the Catholic Church and other powerful institutions actively worked to protect abusers, sometimes by pressuring and intimidating victims into staying silent. Given these circumstances, expecting the majority of victims to come forward by their 23rd birthday is unfair and unrealistic.

Advocates for child sexual abuse victims have tried to change the law in New York. For years now, Queen's Assemblywoman Caroline Markey has sponsored the New York Child Victim's Act, which would extend the statute of limitations to a victim's 28th birthday, and also provide a temporary, one-year window in which victims of any age could file a civil claim. Unfortunately, lobbying by the Catholic Church and other groups that would face liability if victims are able to pursue their claims have successfully prevented the bill's passage.

In states with more reasonable statutes of limitations, adult victims of child sexual abuse have been able to find justice. In California, for example, a one-year window similar to what's been proposed in New York led to hundreds of cases filed against churches, youth groups and other organizations. In other states, generous statutes of limitations have led to abuse convictions, and settlements and jury awards amounting to millions of dollars for victims. Ex-priest Mercure, for example, was only held accountable for two of his crimes because his victims in Massachusetts after he brought them across state lines from New York.

The number of New York victims who could eventually gain some kind of closure with statute of limitations reform could be enormous. In the Archdiocese of New York alone, about 60 priests have been accused of abusing children, though some experts say the true number could be much higher. However, victims of abusive priests would not be the only beneficiaries of a reporting extension. Dozens of men who claim they were abused by a former football coach while they were students at Brooklyn Poly Prep some 25 years ago could finally pursue claims. Reform would also provide now-adult students of New York's elite Horace Mann School with an avenue for legal recourse against the teachers they claim molested them decades ago, as well as the school officials who failed to protect them from predators.

Recent convictions in Pennsylvania of Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as well as Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn, who was accused of covering for abusive priests, have put child sexual abuse in the spotlight. Victims and their advocates in New York are hoping that the conversation prompted by those cases will spur momentum in the state to finally pass statute of limitations reform.

"I think what has happened in Pennsylvania is going to have a major impact," Assemblywoman Markey told Reuters, adding that many victims of child sex abuse "can't find justice in this state."

As a society, it is time to change this statute of limitations.  Having such a short time frame emboldens the Church and similiar institutions to hide such crimes.  In addition, by keeping such claims out of the Courts, society loses the abilty from learning about these incidents and thus the chance from preventing it from occurring again.   

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • $2.05 Million Settlement Mother of Two Struck and Killed by Motorist

    StolzenbergCortelli LLP recently resolved a heart breaking wrongful death action. The mother of two was struck and killed, while she crossed a roadway.

  • $1.1 Million Settlement StolzenbergCortelli LLP Settles Trip Over Nail Case

    Terrence and Howard settled a trip and fall case for $1,100,000. In this case, our client (a resident of Brooklyn) was a cleaning lady who was hired to clean the newsroom of the Wall Street Journal.

  • $750,000 Verdict Jane and John Doe v. Defendant Driver

    The names are redacted for privacy reasons. In this automobile accident case, the female plaintiff was injured and suffered seriously debilitating injuries.

  • $525,000 Settlement Injured When the Trailer upon which He was Standing Collapsed

    Our client was a teamster, working at a concrete plant in Westchester, when he was seriously injured. At the time, he was standing on a trailer, which is colloquially known as a "low boy", when the wooden slats upon which he was standing, collapsed.

  • $457,500 Settlement Car Accident Victim With Pre-Existing Neck Injury

    Settled a client's case for $457,500. The client suffered a significant cervical spine injury requiring a fusion surgery.He was t-boned by a car exiting Purdy's farmer and the Fish in Somers, New York.

  • $450,000 Settlement StolzenbergCortelli LLP Settles Construction Accident Case

    Howard Stolzenberg settled a case for $450,000 where a construction worker was forced to use an exterior fire escape ladder to access the top of the building all while carrying a one gallon bucket of paint. The worker fell and fractured his ankle.

  • $100,000 Settlement Teenager Hit From Behind

    We just settled a case for a young girl who was injured when she was struck from behind while waiting at a red light at an intersection near the entrance to the Saw Mill in Yonkers. She had hip and shoulder surgery.

Email Us For A Response

Discover The StolzenbergCortelli, LLP Advantage

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

StolzenbergCortelli, LLP
Phone: 800-494-0889 Fax: 914-361-4478

3 Convenient Office Locations

White Plains Office
305 Old Tarrytown Rd.
White Plains, NY 10603

Toll Free: 800-494-0889
Fax: 914-361-4478
White Plains Office Location

ROCKLAND
99 Main Street
Nyack, NY 10960

Toll Free: 800-494-0889
Fax: 914-361-4478
Map & Directions

NEW YORK CITY
26 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11242

Toll Free: 800-494-0889
Fax: 914-361-4478
Map & Directions

  • White Plains Bar
  • Rockland County Bar
  • NYSTLA