Survivors of childhood sexual abuse need #HB642 modified to help and not hurt.
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Statute of Limitations (SOL) #HB642
The new statute of limitations law (SOL) in Maryland set to go into effect on October 1, 2017, gives false hope to victims of sexual abuse. One reason for this is that the new law requires Gross Negligence be proven in order to hold responsible third parties for allowing the sexual abuse to continue. Under this new SOL law, the perpetrators of the abuse are treated differently from claims against the organizations who failed to prevent the abuse such as churches and schools. The church must be held accountable for allowing the pedophile priests to remain in a position of power where they had endless opportunities to continue to sexually abuse children. This new law is bogus and designed to fool the average individual to believe the church is actually doing something to stop the abuse for good.
Previously, under the SOL, child sex abuse victims had 7 years from the age of majority/age 25 to file a civil lawsuit against their perpetrators as well as the organizations that enabled such perpetrators. Under the new SOL, the victims have until age 38 to file a civil lawsuit. At first glance this new SOL law appears to provide a valid remedy for child sex abuse victims because the time to file a lawsuit has been extended. However, the new SOL protects the third-parties from being sued because the victim must prove such parties were grossly negligent in allowing the abuse to occur. The abuser cannot continue to abuse unless they have the protections that the third parties have provided time and time again. The Gross negligent requirement will continue to allow the priests to abuse children with impunity.
What is Gross negligence?
Gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both. It is conduct that is extreme when compared with ordinary negligence which is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care. Ordinary negligence and gross negligence differ in degree of attention, while both differ from willful and wanton conduct which is conduct that is reasonably considered to cause injury. West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Under Gross Negligence it must be shown that there was thoughtless disregard of the consequences without the exertion of any effort to avoid them.
Gross negligence is a level of neglect more egregious than simple negligence, but distinguishing between the two is not easy. In Barbre v. Pope, 935 A.2d 699 (Md. 2007) the Court of Appeals explained:
Issues involving gross negligence are often more troublesome than those involving malice because a fine line exists between allegations of negligence and gross negligence. See State, Use of Abell v. Western Maryland R.R., 63 Md. 433, 443 (1885) (noting the difficulty of distinguishing between negligence and gross negligence, “if it be capable of definition”).
402 Md. 157, 187, 935 A.2d 699 (2007) (emphasis supplied). This Court recently echoed that sentiment in Rodriguez v. State: The term “gross negligence” has been described as an amorphous concept, resistant to precise definition. 218 Md.App. 573, 598, 98 A.3d 376 (2014) (emphasis supplied).
Moreover, in Stephen PAGOTTO v. STATE of Maryland. Nos. 424, 1571, Sept. Term, 1997. Decided: July 07, 1999, the Court found:
In a case charging involuntary manslaughter of the gross negligence variety, as we graduate upward, the State will not be permitted to take its case to the jury simply by proving a prima facie case of ordinary negligence. It must meet an additional and higher burden of production by showing such gross negligence, above and beyond mere civil negligence, as to evidence “a wanton or reckless disregard for human life.” There are a number of cases where ordinary negligence has been established or assumed but where the evidence was nonetheless held, as a matter of law, to have been legally insufficient to have permitted the jury even to consider a manslaughter verdict based on gross criminal negligence. Plummer v. State, 118 Md.App. 244, 702 A.2d 453 (1997); Johnson v. State, 213 Md. 527, 132 A.2d 853 (1957); Thomas v. State, 206 Md. 49, 109 A.2d 909 (1954).
West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Bottom line is this new SOL law as it is written is not acceptable. I ask that the gross negligence clause be removed so that the law could help the recent victims of child sexual abuse. I ask further that the existing survivors in Maryland be provided an open window for two years so that they too will may have their day in Court before the jury.
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