Senators urged to remove time limit in sex abuse lawsuits


Five sisters sexually abused in the 1980’s by a priest in the Harrisburg diocese stood in the halls of the state Capitol as senators returned for their final day of the legislative session on Wednesday.

“I like to think there’s always hope that somebody would be the champion and lead the Senate to do the right thing,” Carolyn Fortney said.

The right thing, according to the Fortney sisters, is to pass legislation that changes a Pennsylvania law that prevents many older victims of child sexual abuse from seeking justice against their attackers.

Senate Bill 261, as passed by the House in September, would give survivors a two-year window to file lawsuits in cases where the limitation period has already expired. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations bars people older than 30 from suing for childhood abuse.

The amended bill did not get a vote in the Senate.

“Do we expect it, no, but we’re hopeful that it will happen. It could happen,” Patty Fortney-Julius said.

Senators are not scheduled to return to the Capitol until the new session begins in January. Unless lawmakers return for a special session and approve it, the legislation will have to be re-introduced next year.

“I can call them back, but they don’t have to do anything, so you really have to have some agreement before you do something like that,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “I’m not sure there’s an appetite in the Senate to come back at this point.”

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