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Politics & Government

House OKs Retroactive Abuse Case Limits

Matt Rourke

A long-sought measure to retroactively change the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases has been queued up for a final vote in the state House. 

The proposal would erase the statute of limitations in criminal cases of child sex abuse going forward, and extend the limit for civil cases from the victim’s 30th birthday to when he or she turns 50.

House lawmakers also approved a tweak on Monday that will apply the civil suit extension retroactively to victims whose cases have already been time-barred. That means child sex abuse victims older than 30 would be able to bring a civil suit until their 50th birthday under the proposal.

The amendment was offered by Democratic Representative Mark Rozzi of Berks County, who said victims should have more time to bring suit, since they often take decades to speak about their abuse.

“My amendment does not help everyone but it at least opens the door,” said Rozzi in a speech on the House floor before his amendment passed overwhelmingly. “More work needs to be done. We can’t change what happened to the innocents of the past, but we can make it right.”

Opponents to the statute of limitations changes include the Catholic Church, which says the changes could introduce flawed cases. Insurers have said applying the new time limits retroactively would make planning difficult.  

The measure has seen a flurry of action since last month’s grand jury report recommending similar policy changes after finding a clergy cover-up of child sex abuse at the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic diocese.