Senate committee to give unanimous recommendation: Child sexual abuse

The Senate committee gives a unanimous recommendation to move the child sexual abuse bill to the full chamber after so many years of late. David Lorenz cried and embraced his wife, Judy, as each Maryland senator with the Judicial Proceedings Committee cast their yes vote. The committee has voted 10-1 to advance a bill that would repeal the statutes of limitations on lawsuits by plaintiffs claiming that they had suffered child sexual abuse. Lorenz had pushed this litigation to 15 years as he attended a private Kentucky school. Lorenz, the Maryland director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also called SNAP, stated, “I don’t get benefit from this bill one bit because my abuse took place in Kentucky. I have watched people come up here and testify. I know three of them who…passed away.” He added, “This will give survivors vindication and validation; they get to tell their story.”

An amendment was approved on Thursday.

Senate Bill 686, sponsored by Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery), chairing the committee, shall permit a victim to file a suit “at any time.” A couple of amendments were approved on Thursday. It included a liability cap of $890,000 against public institutions such as school boards, which was $850,000 in the bill. The liability limit for a single plaintiff increases to $1.5 million for claims against private institutions for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Lorenz and other advocates appreciated Smith and Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) for pushing the legislation in the House of Delegates for several years and handspring the bills on behalf of survivors. Smith said, “First, thank C.T. Wilson because he’s been working with me on this. He’s been leading this effort for years.” He added, “I’m glad we’re able to provide this as a chance for access to justice for the survivors that have been denied so far.”
Smith’s declaration and responses from the committee members
Smith declared that the bill could come for a debate on the Senate floor by next week. The lawmakers had earlier debated since 2019 that it could be unconstitutional to repeal a statute of repose. Kathleen Hoke, a University of Maryland professor, had even explained the legal concept of a statute of repose to lawmakers in January. Kathleen hugged and cried with Lorenz and the other supporters and survivors in the committee lobby Friday.

She said, “I think the overarching thing is nobody even understood what a statute of repose even was, how there could even be one in cases of child sexual assault.” She declared, “I don’t know that I shocked them; instead, maybe brought them to a level of comfort that they understand now. [Lawmakers] didn’t have to figure out the constitutional question. They must do what they thought was right from a public policy perspective.” Wilson said, “The House has been fine because the House is not a stalling point.” He added, “I hope my pain and suffering somehow help others. When you come here, the goal isn’t to be a king. It’s to be a voice. Many folks feel they never have a voice, so I want them to know they’re not alone.”

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