The Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider its recent decision to strike down the state’s lookback window law. The law, passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2021, gave survivors of childhood sex abuse more time to file lawsuits against their abusers.

Although the justices have not set a date for the new hearing, they have set a deadline of May 20 for parties to file briefs on the matter.

Back in 2021, when Louisiana passed HB492, it was one of the first states in the country that allowed a sex abuse survivor to file a civil sex abuse lawsuit against their abuser, no matter how far back the alleged abuse occurred. They were given a lookback window deadline of June 14, 2024, to file a lawsuit and seek financial compensation.

The creation of the bill was based on scientific evidence that it could take years for children who are sex abuse victims to acknowledge they were abused. Often those abused as children experience delayed disclosure and do not come forward until they are in their fifties. 

The lookback window was challenged by the Catholic Church, catholic schools, religious orders, insurance companies, lobbyists, and defense attorneys for alleged abusers who continuously voiced their objections.

Soon after the creation of the Louisiana lookback law, due to the fact it focused on a 1993 statute, opponents questioned whether or not it should be applied to abuse after that year. After various Louisiana courts weighed in, the state legislature approved an update to the lookback window law known as HB402

Louisiana Supreme Court’s Decisions on Lookback Window

On March 22, the sex abuse lookback window was rendered unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court after lawyers for the defense argued the state could not justify removing a “vested right” that took hold once the prescription period for claims expired.

The decision came in a 4-3 majority with Justice James Genovese explaining the decision this way: “Guided by Louisiana’s civil law tradition, we decline to upend nearly a half of a century’s jurisprudence that recognizes the unique nature of vested rights associated with liberative prescription.”

On May 10, the justices discussed whether or not to rehear the case. They determined with a 5-2 vote to revisit the case with Justices Jefferson Hughes and James Genovese dissenting. Although he did not give a complete explanation of the Court’s decision, Chief Justice John Weimer did stress he’d order oral arguments “promptly.”

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, who requested the high court to rehear the case in March, praised their decision. 

Murill, who had stressed to the justices that she was concerned its decision to rule the lookback window unconstitutional would be seen as a violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers since Louisiana’s legislative branch unanimously voted for the lookback law two years ago, described the new decision as “a victory for child victims of sexual abuse.”

“I’m pleased that the Louisiana Supreme Court granted our application for a rehearing. This was the right decision – as the bill passed unanimously through the State Legislature and should be the law here in Louisiana.”

If the Louisiana Supreme Court decides to allow the lookback window, one particular entity could be greatly affected – the Archdiocese of New Orleans. 

In 2020, the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for bankruptcy court protection because of the already high number of claims of sexual abuse against clergy and other church employees. And, with the lookback window in place, many more victims were able to come forward to file clergy sex abuse lawsuits

Without the lookback window in place, many sex abuse survivors will lose the ability to receive any compensation that may be generated through bankruptcy.

While the Supreme Court is considering its decision on the lookback window, state lawmakers on a House committee are advancing a bill that would extend the amount of time survivors of child sex abuse have to file lawsuits. The new bill moving through the Legislature would extend the lookback window another three years, through June 14, 2027.

What Does This Mean for Louisiana Sex Abuse Survivors

While the Supreme Court reconsiders its stand on Louisiana’s lookback window, victims of sexual abuse should seek out the support they need and deserve. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it happened, you should reach out to an experienced lawyer right away. 

The Louisiana sex abuse attorneys at Herman Herman Katz have experience in these cases, whether they happened recently or in the past. When someone is sexually abused, not only can they suffer physical injuries, but they also suffer emotional damage. Many suffer from guilt, and depression and may begin experiencing thoughts of suicide.  

For the victims to receive the care they need to recover and protect their legal rights, they should speak with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. Taking legal action against the abuser, or an entity that protected the abuser, can bring justice to the victim as well as protect others from future abuse. 

Call Herman Herman Katz at (844) 943-7626 or use our online contact form for more information or to arrange a confidential case consultation. 

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