Extension for sex-abuse victims fails again
By Jaime Malarkey
The Baltimore Examiner
Feb. 28, 2008
Under existing law, civil suits for child sex-abuse claims must be filed by the victim’s 25th birthday. Bromwell’s bill — which was co-sponsored by five other lawmakers — would have opened 2009 to lawsuits, regardless of the victim’s age. After 2009, the statute of limitations would extend until the victim’s 50th birthday.
Bromwell initially proposed the bill to help victims who are often not ready to come forward until decades after their abuse. He said Wednesday he would give “serious consideration” to sponsoring it during the next General Assembly session. It is the second year in a row that the bill died.
“I got a lot of feedback, positive and negative,” the Baltimore County Democrat said.
The Maryland Catholic Conference lobbied heavily against the bill, arguing a similar window enacted in California had bankrupted two dioceses. Bromwell’s bill unfairly exempts government entities and does nothing to protect children from abuse, said Richard Dowling, executive director of the conference.
If enacted, the proposal would have cost Catholic parishes, schools and social services such as medical clinics, homeless shelters and employment centers millions of dollars to fund decades-old lawsuits, he said.
“I think we are doing the right thing,” Dowling said. “Legislation of this kind is being advocated in state legislatures across the country by avaricious attorneys who have already made fortunes by suing the church on this same issue.”
Bromwell’s bill was assigned a March 20 hearing date, which he said left little time to generate support before the end of the legislative session.
Victims advocating the proposal said Bromwell’s bill, at the least, generated discussion.
“We told everyone from the get-go this may take a few years to get through,” said Susan O’Brien, an Annapolis lobbyist representing Child Victim Voices. “The important thing is, it doesn’t change the determination of the survivors.”