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4/22/2024 By Lauren Macina and Maya Das

On April 11, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed the Child Victims Act (CVA) of 2023, which eliminates the statute of limitations allowing survivors to file civil lawsuits against both private and public institutions for claims of childhood abuse that had expired under the prior deadline. The bill also removes the statute of limitations for all future childhood abuse claims. On October 1, 2023, the CVA went into effect, and the cap on non-economic damages increased to $890,000 against public institutions and $1.5 million against private institutions for a single claimant against a single defendant. Several states have enacted similar acts in recent years; however, this is the first to include damages caps.

Maryland’s CVA is the most recent example of reforms aimed at reinstating civil (and sometimes criminal) claims for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Much of the focus over the past few years has centered on New York’s 2019 Child Victims Act, which led to more than 10,000 lawsuits filed during a two-and-a-half-year reviver window. Many of the lawsuits alleged abuse from religious organizations; consequently five of the eight New York Catholic dioceses have since filed for bankruptcy: Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rockville Centre, and Albany.

While Maryland is a significantly smaller state than New York, it shares a similar history of strong ties to the Catholic Church. Investigations and public reporting have already uncovered significant and widespread abuse in Maryland. The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on September 29, 2023—days before the CVA went into effect.  The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, Department of Human Services, and treatment centers for youths have also had claims filed against them under the CVA.

 In addition to Maryland’s CVA, we’ve seen other states with windows opening or closing in 2023 and 2024: 

  • Arkansas

In 2021, Arkansas passed the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act, which opened a two-year revival window — a period of time where a survivor can file a claim of childhood sexual abuse that would otherwise be barred from being filed. Previously, survivors were required to file a claim within three years of discovering their related injury caused by the abuse, such as mental distress/health; inability to maintain a job; loss of quality of life; and medical bills. The original window was open from February 1, 2022, through January 31, 2024. In 2023, this revival window was quickly extended to remain open until January 31, 2026. 

  • Colorado

The CSA Accountability Act, passed in 2021, opened a three-year revival window for any sexual harassment/misconduct against minors between the years 1960 to 2021. The window opened on January 1, 2022, with plans to close on December 31, 2024. However, on June 20, 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the law on the grounds that the Colorado constitution bars the legislation from passing any laws that apply to retroactive conduct. The law initially received bipartisan support. Now, there are concerns amongst many Republicans — many of whom voted in favor of the bill in 2021 — regarding the potential consequences placed on public and private entities. For example, State Senator Mark Baisley, who represents Colorado's 4th Senate district, was an original sponsor of the bill, however, he now votes in opposition. He argues that “good organizations” could be unjustly punished by claims filed under past leadership. 

  • Louisiana

In 2021, Louisiana eliminated its civil statue of limitations age cap for child abuse. Previously, child sex abuse victims in Louisiana had until 28 years of age to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators. That same year, the state enacted a three-year revival window, which would allow child sex abuse victims to file civil claims that had technically expired. This new legislation, known as the Louisiana Child Victims Act, was signed into law on June 14, 2021, by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and officially went into effect on August 1, 2021. Victims now have until mid-2024 to file lawsuits that had previously expired under past Louisiana legislation.

 In 2023, a Louisiana state appeals court upheld this law in a case where a man alleged abuse by a priest that occurred in the 1960s. The Diocese of Lafayette stood in opposition, arguing that this new piece of legislation violates the organization’s constitutional rights. During plaintiff counsel’s rebuttal, it was pointed out that the average age at which survivors of child sex abuse come forward is 52. Thus, without this law in place, the majority of child sex abuse victims would be prevented for receiving the compensation they deserve. 

  • New York

In 2022, New York passed the Adult Survivor’s Act, allowing survivors of sexual violence to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators. There was a one-year lookback window that opened on November 24, 2022, and closed on November 24, 2023, to allow survivors who were barred previously due to their age at the time of filing. By the close of this period, more than 3,000 lawsuits were filed under the ASA. 

The Gender Motivated Violence Act (GMVA) was first passed in 2018. This is limited to New York City, rather than the entire state, meaning the act must have occurred within one of the five boroughs. In 2022, NYC amended the gender-motivated violence law to open a two-year window beginning March 1, 2023, and closing on February 28, 2025. Initially, the GMVA allowed victims to file a civil claim within seven years of the abuse occurring; however this was also extended to nine years when the lookback period was opened. 

Preparing for Lawsuits

Given the changing state statute landscape, organizations would be wise to prepare now if they expect future lawsuits. With 52 being the average age that a survivor of childhood sexual abuse comes forward, organizations should expect claims to span several decades—and several legacy insurance policies.

KCIC has assisted many organizations facing, or expecting to face, sexual abuse claims. We specialize in insurance archaeology and recovery; claims and data management; valuation; and allocating abuse claims to coverage. While financial compensation can never right the wrong suffered by victims, helping secure compensation to survivors is an important part of the solution.

Look for an upcoming blog series about the myriad of tasks and issues that arise when childhood abuse claims are filed, and steps you can take to be ready.

* Sarah Shavo contributed to this post.

Lauren Macina

About Lauren Macina

Lauren Macina manages projects that involve insurance coverage litigation and settlement, development of claims processing procedures and systems, and complex analysis of claims and insurance. Lauren is involved in all aspects of client's needs and understands how claims data impacts litigation and forecasting.

Learn More About Lauren
Maya Das

Maya Das