Maryland Delegate’s Effort to Allow Child Abuse Lawsuits Clears Hurdle

C.T. Wilson gathered his courage, told his colleagues in the Maryland House of Delegates about how he was sexually abused as a child and urged them to allow child victims more time to file lawsuits against their attackers.
The first two times he did that, the Charles County Democrat saw his proposal die in a House committee without even being called for a vote.

But this year, he may have prevailed. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved legislation to let victims file lawsuits until they’re 38 years old — 13 years later than current law allows. And Thursday morning, the full House advanced Wilson’s bill to a final vote.

“I had no idea it was going to pass” out of committee, Wilson said. “I figured I would fight every year.”

He said it was a relief after repeatedly giving painful testimony.

“It’s a huge accomplishment. Also a huge weight,” Wilson said. “To expose yourself like that is so painful.”

For the bill to advance, two powerful opponents had to be won over: the Catholic Church and Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Their concerns were satisfied when the bill was amended to make it more for difficult for victims older than 25 to win damages in civil lawsuits.

“We think this is a fair compromise,” said Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

The state Senate unanimously approved a similar proposal Wednesday. Either the Senate bill or House bill must be approved by the other chamber before April 10 for the legislation to advance to the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.