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       STATUTE OF LIMITATION
     Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference
        in Opposition to Eliminating the Statute of Limitation (House Bill 5473)
 
                                                                                                                                                                           
On March 29, 2010, the Judiciary Committee passed H.B. 5473 (in a 23-20 vote), which
would completely eliminate the existing 30 year statute of limitations relating to sexual abuse
of a minor. The bill would permit persons alleging such abuse to wait 40, 50, 60 or more years
before filing a claim. Although the bill requires additional evidence to file a civil claim after a
30 year period, these provisions are lacking in protecting the right of the accused to present an adequate defense. This legislation is specifically related to abuse claims arising out of the actions
of Dr. George Reardon. Civil claims have been filed against Saint Francis Hospital and the
Archdiocese of Hartford based on Dr. Reardon’s actions. Judiciary Committee Voting Tally
 
When similar bills passed in California and Delaware, the result was over 1,250 plaintiffs filing suit against Catholic institutions, two dioceses in bankruptcy, efforts to foreclose on parish and diocesan properties, and the transfer of over $1.3 billion from Catholic institutions and their insurers to claimants and their counsel.

These risks are real. Over 140 persons have already sued St. Francis Hospital due to the alleged rogue and wicked acts of one physician who practiced there decades ago. Forty-nine of these persons are now suing the Archdiocese of Hartford. According to the Hartford Courant, there are many more patients who have not yet sued. Since 2002, the dioceses in Portland, Spokane, Tucson, San Diego, Davenport, Fairbanks, and Wilmington have filed for bankruptcy. In most of these cases, claimants have sought to liquidate parish properties to satisfy their demands.
  • HB 5473 is unwise because it compromises sound judicial practices. A statute of limitation is a deadline for filing a claim. If missed, the claim expires, and the parties can rely upon this fact to arrange their affairs. Such statutes serve the common good by helping courts produce accurate results. Delayed claims means litigation after documents have been discarded, memories have faded, and witnesses have moved away or died. When California passed a similar bill, the dioceses there were forced to defend cases involving allegations against over 100 dead priests. Trials are unlikely to produce fair results when the only person able to testify about the alleged wrongful conduct is the party seeking the damage award.
  • HB 5473 is unjust because it imposes the burden of litigation expense and damages upon Catholic institutions that the State is unwilling to impose upon itself. The State is unwilling to permit a direct right of action against itself or any action against other government entities like towns, school boards, or public schools. Thus, a student victimized by a teacher in a Catholic school can sue the school for damages. A student suffering an identical assault in a public school cannot seek damages because his claim is barred by a doctrine called sovereign immunity. HB 5473 leaves this unfairness unaddressed.

This unfairness is greater because Catholic institutions have largely resolved their problem of childhood sexual abuse through zero tolerance practices implemented in 1992 and excellent safe environment programs beginning in 2002. Connecticut Catholic dioceses and parishes have conducted over 2,500 classes on identification of early warning signs and on mandatory reporting; trained 234,000 clergy, lay employees, parents, and youth; and conducted over 68,000 criminal background checks.

                            
                                          Connecticut Bishop's Statement on H.B. 5473 
                                          The Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference
                  Responds to Criticism of Bishop's Statement by the sponsor of the H.B. 5473
                                             Representative Beth Bye of West Hartford.
          The Conference's responses further highlight the facts and concerns surrounding
                                                             the proposed legislation.   
           April 16th - Representative Bye responds to Conference letter
 
 
View Archbishop Henry J. Mansell presenting the Connecticut Bishops' Statement on House Bill 5473
[QuickTime]
 
                                       Frequently Asked Questions on H.B. 5473