Sexual abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse, is a traumatic event that leaves lifelong emotional scars. Victims might not feel free to talk about their abuse for years, perhaps even decades. By the time these people speak out, the statute of limitations deadline may have passed, barring prosecution and preventing victims from filing lawsuits to compensate them for their damages.

In recent years, many jurisdictions have wrestled with this problem. The typical solution for most of these jurisdictions, including Maryland, is to lengthen the statute of limitations deadline or eliminate it altogether. Maryland did this in 2023 by passing the Child Victims Act.

The new law follows many years of advocacy by victim’s rights groups and a damning report from the Attorney General’s Office detailing decades of abuse in the Baltimore Catholic Church. All told, at least 600 child victims and 150 abusers over an 80-year period have already been identified. Many advocates claim that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Impacts of the New Law in Maryland

The most important effect of the Child Victims Act is that it allows victims of child sexual abuse to sue for damages no matter how much time has passed since their abuse occurred. In other words, there is no statute of limitations for these victims. 

In most cases, the victims will not focus on suing individual abusers so much as suing institutions such as churches and schools whose negligence allowed the abuse to occur.  


The new law applies the elimination of the statute of limitations retroactively. That means that even if the statute of limitations deadline for your claim has already passed, the new law resurrects your claim. You can file your claim and pursue it in court just as if there had never been a statute of limitations deadline in the first place.

Basis of Liability for Child Sex Abuse

Suing the perpetrator of the crimes may provide a sense of much-needed justice. But suing the institution that failed to protect you from the abuse may provide another avenue for justice, as well as a plausible path to recovering damages for the harm you’ve suffered. 

However, you will need a valid theory of liability to hold such an institution accountable. 

Respondeat Superior

Respondeat superior is a theory of liability that allows you to sue the employer of a wrongdoer who injures you in the scope of their employment duties. If respondeat superior applies, you can sue the institution without proving that it did anything wrong. The employee’s wrongdoing is attributed to their employer.

It is debatable, however, whether priests or other clergy can be considered employees of the churches they serve. By contrast, public school teachers usually are employees of the schools they work for.

Even if they are an employee, sexually molesting a child is never “within the scope of” an abuser’s employment duties. As a consequence, respondeat superior will not work as a legal theory to hold a church or a school liable for the acts of an abusive clergy or teacher.


“Negligence” means something like carelessness. If you sue a church or a school over the sexual abuse of one of its clergy or teachers, you can win your claim if you prove that the institution you are suing was negligent in failing to prevent the abuse. 

Did they properly vet the abuser before they hired them? Did they properly supervise them? If not, you may have a valid claim.


You can also win a personal injury lawsuit against an institution that sponsored an abuser if you can prove that they covered up previous offenses. Suppose, for example, that a priest is caught molesting a child. Instead of reporting the priest, the church transferred them to another parish, where they proceeded to abuse you. These facts almost certainly justify a sexual abuse claim against the church.

Contact a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With Your Claim

If you are seeking compensation for sexual abuse, especially for sexual abuse that occurred long ago, you deserve an experienced personal injury lawyer to be your advocate. Rosen Injury Lawyers has extensive experience representing survivors of sexual abuse. We’ve recovered millions for our clients and helped them obtain justice against those who allowed their sexual abuse to occur. 

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced sexual abuse lawyers.