Louisiana Court to Allow Survivors of Abuse by Clergy to File Lawsuits Against Diocese

October 5, 2023 Announcements and Law Updates

Louisiana Court to Allow Survivors of Abuse by Clergy to File Lawsuits Against Diocese

People who have suffered harm because of another person’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing have the right to file a civil lawsuit and seek damages to compensate them for the harm, financial or otherwise, that the defendant caused.  Victims of violent crimes and sexual assault even have the right to sue their assailants in civil court, whether or not the assault resulted in a criminal conviction; plaintiffs sometimes prevail in these cases even when the defendant never faced criminal charges for the incident.  Most types of civil lawsuits have a statute of limitations, but setting a statute of limitations for claims related to childhood sexual abuse is a complicated legal matter. To find out more about filing a claim related to sexual abuse by a clergy member, contact a Louisiana church abuse lawyer.

Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Statute of Limitations

Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse do not tell anyone about the abuse they suffered until years later.  If a minor wishes to file a lawsuit in court, the minor’s legal guardian must act on his or her behalf.  Some child victims of sexual abuse tell their parents as soon as the abuse happens, but the parents choose not to take legal action. Even after the victim reaches adulthood, adults in his or her life may pressure the victim to stay silent about the abuse. Meanwhile, adult abusers of children may intimidate the children into not telling their parents. In some cases, survivors of sexual abuse do not even realize that the adult’s behavior toward them constituted abuse until they are much older. In the case of abuse by Catholic priests, the average age at which abuse survivors speak up about the abuse is 52; decades after the abuse occurred.

In 2021, a court in Louisiana ruled in favor of a man who sued the diocese where a priest had abused him in the early 1960s when he was a minor. This ruling set a three-year “look back window” during which abuse survivors could sue the church for past instances of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. In other words, it gave adult survivors until 2024 to file claims about abuse that occurred when they were children. The church appealed the ruling, but in August 2023, a higher court upheld it, which means that the three-year look-back window is still in place.

Contact Mansfield Melancon Cranmer & Dick About Church Abuse Cases

A car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal rights as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a clergy member, including the three-year look-back window.  Contact Mansfield Melancon Cranmer & Dick Injury Lawyers in Louisiana to discuss your case.