The Archdiocese of Washington is challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s new Child Victims Act. The 2023 legislation took effect in October and lifts the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse, much akin to legislation approved in numerous other states. The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Washington, which together with the Diocese of Wilmington cover the entirety of Maryland’s Catholic territory, have fought against the legislation for years. In November, the Archdiocese of Washington argued that those accused of child sexual abuse have a “vested right” to legal immunity once the alleged victim turns 38 years old.
Over the past few weeks, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown has disputed the Archdiocese’s reasoning. Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Luoma wrote:
We are aware of no Maryland case holding that expiration of a statute of limitations or statute of repose provides a defendant with a vested right. What the Archdiocese asks this Court to rule would be unprecedented and would go against the consensus of federal law and the reasoned opinions of many other states.
The dispute centers on the difference between a statue of limitations and a statute of repose. A statute of repose, generally considered more favorable to defendants than to plaintiffs, sets the clock ticking for plaintiffs based on the actions or establishments of the defendants; for example, a construction company protected by a statute of repose could only be sued for injuries sustained in or working on a specific building starting at a specific date and time and ending at a specific date and time. A statue of limitations, however, allows the plaintiff to file a suit or claim based on when an offense or injury occurred to him.
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