Law Firms Seeking Justice on Behalf of Sexual Abuse Victims by Defending the Maryland Child Victims Act of 2023
Baltimore, MD – Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. and Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC, two leading Maryland-based medical malpractice, personal injury, and civil litigation law firms, are partnering to oppose a motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Washington in an upcoming March hearing on behalf of sex abuse victims who have come forward seeking justice.
The class action suit, John Doe et al. v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, was filed in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland on behalf of all survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests and other personnel affiliated with the Archdiocese of Washington.
The Child Victims Act of 2023 was passed in Maryland to eliminate the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse to bring forth civil lawsuits against their alleged abusers and those who enabled them. The new law took effect on October 1, 2023, allowing civil suits to move forward in Maryland courts no matter when the abuse took place. The class action against the Archdiocese of Washington was filed the same day.
The Archdiocese of Washington has requested that the lawsuit be dismissed, arguing that the Child Victims Act is unconstitutional. The Archdiocese of Washington claims that a 2017 law that placed time limits for filing—which was repealed and replaced by the Child Victims Act—was a “statute of repose” that prevents any sex abuse claims from being revived in the future.
Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. and Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC, on behalf of the plaintiffs, argue that the 2017 law was not a “statute of repose.” Maryland law requires that statutes of repose set time limits for litigation that start running based on a defendant’s behavior, not a plaintiff’s injury. The time limitation set forth in the 2017 law, however, starts running solely based on the age of the survivor.
“The Archdiocese of Washington contends that its mission includes protection and support of its parishioners who are all members of its church. However, despite their admitted decades of sexual abuse, the Archdiocese is making transparent efforts to shield its assets and deprive its parishioners from attaining closure, moving forward with their lives and obtaining full and fair compensation which the Archdiocese owes them. In my opinion, their conduct is horrendous – disgraceful, in fact,” said Jonathan Schochor, Founding Partner and Chairman of Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A.
In addition, the plaintiffs point out that Maryland lawmakers have passed retroactive exceptions to a statute of repose before. For example, it passed a retroactive extension of asbestos-based lawsuits in 1991. The opposition points out that the asbestos exception was not viewed as problematic by the Maryland Attorney General. Importantly, the Archdiocese of Washington and Maryland Catholic Conference testified in support of the asbestos exception.
The plaintiffs are not alone in opposing the Archdiocese of Washington’s attempt to strike down the Child Victims Act. On December 21, 2023, the Maryland Attorney General filed a brief arguing in support of the law’s constitutionality. The Archdiocese of Washington’s motion to dismiss is scheduled for a hearing before Judge Robin Bright on March 6, 2024, at 10:00 AM in Upper Marlboro.
“The Archdiocese twists the language and history of the 2017 law in arguing that it granted permanent immunity to those who failed to supervise child sexual abusers. The plain language of the 2017 law undercuts the Archdiocese’s argument, and we find it highly doubtful that the General Assembly would have gone out of its way to enact a boon to child abuse enablers,” said Andrew Janet, Partner and Co-Chair, Sexual Abuse Division, Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC. “The General Assembly and Attorney General are fighting to protect survivors of child sexual abuse, and we believe the courts will understand the importance of doing so as well.”
The Archdiocese of Washington has previously admitted to having 34 clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and is under investigation by the Maryland Attorney General. The plaintiffs allege that the Archdiocese of Washington has engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that has permitted sexual abuse against children for decades.
Three class representatives who were sexually abused by Archdiocese of Washington clergy as minors are identified via pseudonyms in the lawsuit. All plaintiffs are alleged to have suffered a wide variety of serious physical, emotional, and financial injuries.
Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. and Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC, have previously partnered in a class action against Johns Hopkins Hospital arising from sexual abuse committed by one of its doctors. That case settled for $190 million, which has been reported to be the largest sexual abuse settlement in Maryland history.
About Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A.
Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. has been fighting for patients’ rights as a leading medical malpractice, personal injury, and civil litigation law firm since 1984. For nearly four decades, the firm has represented thousands of clients in catastrophic injury matters and has achieved remarkable results on their behalf. Additionally, the firm is a recognized leader in sexual abuse cases as well as class action and mass tort litigation with record-breaking results. Schochor, Staton, Goldberg and Cardea, P.A. has offices in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Its lawyers are licensed to practice in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and New York, and have been specially admitted to practice in courts around the country. To learn more, visit: sfspa.com.
About Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC
Janet, Janet & Suggs is a Maryland-based national law firm with offices in 10 states and Washington D.C. Its attorneys have handled hundreds of individual clergy abuse cases as well as noteworthy high-profile sexual abuse cases against major universities and hospitals, as well as other well-known institutions. The firm has decades of experience handling catastrophic injury cases and has won over three billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients across a wide range of serious and complex cases.