Legislature releases revised bill on filing of sexual abuse lawsuits

May 2, 2019

Details of a revised state Senate bill, which would give alleged victims of sexual abuse additional time to file lawsuits, reveals that victims now would be able to sue in connection with abuse that occurred before they turned 21.

The existing law requires victims to have been under 18 when the abuse occurred in order to have 30 years after their 18th birthday — that is, until age 48 — to file a lawsuit.

The proposed law, which received a favorable recommendation from the Judiciary Committee and now moves on to the full General Assembly for consideration, states that no action to recover damages for personal injury to a person under 21, including emotional distress, caused by sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual assault, may be brought later than 35 years from the date the victims reach the age of 21. That would give victims to age 56 to file a lawsuit.

The revised bill, known as Senate Bill 3, also would give victims 21 and older five years from the date of the assault to file a lawsuit.

The original bill would have given victims older than 48 a 27-month window to file a lawsuit regardless of their age. Supporters of the provision had pointed out that many victims who have been abused by Catholic priests often do not reveal their abuse until much later in life, on average in their 50s.

The Day is seeking records about which Judiciary Committee member recommended eliminating the 27-month window in favor of the provision that gives victims to age 56 to file a lawsuit.

While increasing the window to file a lawsuit by eight years will benefit some victims, the change still comes as a bitter disappointment to those older than that who only recently came forward to say they were abused.

“It leaves a lot of people like me in a hole,” said John “Tim” McGuire, 60, of New London, who offered an emotional testimony about being sexually assaulted by a priest during a Judiciary Committee public hearing last month.

McGuire had broken down as he told committee members how, when he was an 8-year-old altar boy, he was sexually assaulted by the late Rev. James Curry at St. Joseph’s Church in Noank and how it has affected his life.

McGuire discovered he had missed the filing deadline by three weeks when he first decided to come forward 12 years ago. Now, with the proposed change to age 56, he would miss the filing deadline by four years.

McGuire pointed out that the average age for people to reveal they were abused is in their early to mid-50s, which means many victims are older than that.

McGuire said he was disgusted with how he’s seen the legislative process unfold.

He said that while victims “poured their hearts out” at the public hearing, behind the scenes the state’s Catholic dioceses used a high-powered lobbyist to convince the committee to make the change instead of addressing it in public.

“What reason is there not to compensate victims of child rape?” he asked.

McGuire said he and other victims of priest abuse are working with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and lawyers who represent victims to try and convince legislators to restore the original language of the bill before a vote.

The bill also would increase the time to criminally prosecute sexual assault and strengthen protections for those who are victims of sexual harassment.