There is a new bill making its way through the California legislature that would give victims of child abuse more time to sue their abuser’s employer in civil court. The Catholic Church is doing everything it can to kill the bill.
SB 131 lifts the statute of limitations for one year for a group of child abuse victims, ages 26 and older, who were previously unable to sue their abuser’s employer because of age and time restrictions.
A similar bill passed in 2002 led to hundreds of victim coming forth and the diocese statewide paid $1.2 billion in settlements. But there was a deadline to file a claim and many victims missed it.
The Catholic Church did not fight the 2002 bill. Now the California Council of Nonprofit Organization, a group affiliated with the California Catholic Conference, has spent more than $70,000 to stop SB 131, according to documents filed with the California Secretary of State’s office.
The Los Angeles archdiocese, which paid out $660 million alone after the 2002 bill, and other private groups say they are unfairly targeted by SB 131 because the bill does not apply to public schools.
“Our hearts can bleed and feel sad for those who didn’t come forward, but the purpose is good and fair public policy,” said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.
But it is more fair to leave victims without justice?
“It’s hard to defend a case when it happened decades ago,” said Tom Lyon, a law expert at the University of Southern California. “But why not give them their day in court?”
SB 131 made its way through the state Senate and passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It is expected to go to the House Appropriations Committee in August.