In 2021, Louisiana’s state legislature created a lookback window until June 14, 2024, for childhood victims of sex abuse to file civil lawsuits no matter when the abuse occurred. Before the lookback window law, victims could only file civil lawsuits until age 28. Due to factors including the increasing number of allegations of clergy sexual abuse against entities like the Catholic Church and increased public awareness of mental health, and delayed recognition of abuse by survivors, the Louisiana lawmakers determined victims needed more time to come forward to take action against their abuser.
Once Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the lookback window into law, the number of sexual abuse claims increased. However, those representing Louisiana sex abusers have objected to the lookback window and have pushed for the legislation to be overturned.
Currently, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is embroiled in a federal bankruptcy case and has hundreds of claims of sexual abuse levied against it. Our firm represents the most survivors of sexual abuse in the New Orleans Archdiocese bankruptcy, and we are here to help those seeking justice even while the Louisiana Supreme Court is considering the lookback window law.
What Is The Lookback Window Case Before The Louisiana Supreme Court?
On May 1, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in T.S. v. Congregation of Holy Cross Southern Province, and the case is forcing the state’s highest court to consider a key question, perhaps once and for all.
Whose rights should be protected? The sex abuse survivors or the alleged abuser and the entity responsible for keeping the children safe?
The lawsuit claims that “T.S.” was sexually abused in New Orleans in 1965. He was 11, and the abuser was a brother and on staff at Holy Cross School.
The attorneys for the accused hold the position that the lookback window created two years ago is “unlawful’’ and that the church and school can not be sued because 58 years have passed. The window violates the state constitution, they argued. However, attorneys representing the victims, including Brittany Wolf-Freedman, an attorney with Child USAdvocacy, disagree. Wolf-Freedman stressed the Louisiana Legislature was within its power to establish the temporary allowance for lawsuits to be filed.
By establishing the window, the legislature “… unanimously found the rights of child victims trump those of their abusers,” she said.
On the other side, Ian Atkinson, an attorney for Holy Cross, described his client as having a “vested right” and called for the removal of the lookback window. He argued that the original statute of limitations, created almost 30 years ago, should have stayed in effect, and both the accused and the institutions should be protected since the legal deadline had passed.
Atkinson told the Court that this view is “consistent with a long line of Supreme Court cases stating that vested rights are protected in Louisiana and that revival (of the right to sue) is not allowed because it would deprive the defendant of the vested right to plead prescription (or statute of limitations).”
While it could be months before the Court shares its decision, during the arguments, Justice Will Crain did make it known that he believed the Legislature had “a clear public policy goal’’ with the use of the lookback window.
Crain also pondered out loud if an abuser should be given particular allowances. “Is there any sound policy reason to allow for a child abuser to rest easy with the passage of time?” he asked.
In the coming weeks, T.S. v. Congregation of Holy Cross Southern Province just may determine once and for all whether Louisiana survivors of sexual abuse can pursue justice even if they don’t meet the restrictions set in the previous statute of limitations.
Why It’s Important to File a Sex Abuse Lawsuit
By filing a sex abuse lawsuit, survivors can hold accountable both the abuser and the institution responsible for not keeping children safe, and survivors can be compensated for the injuries and suffering they sustained by their sexual abuser.
No financial sum can take away the trauma that sex abuse victims endure, but compensation can offset the costs of medical expenses, therapy treatment, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
If you have survived childhood sexual abuse, rest assured our Louisiana sex abuse lawyers can advocate for you and help guide you through the complex legal process. The Louisiana lookback window closes next year on June 14, 2024, so it’s essential to move quickly to have your voice heard. For a free, confidential case consultation or more information regarding filing a sex abuse lawsuit under the Louisiana lookback law, call us at 844-943-7626 or contact us online. Let us do the work so you can focus on healing.