PA Senate passes statute of limitations reform bills

HARRISBURG — The state Senate passed four bills Wednesday that are focused on statute of limitations reform.

House Bill 962 would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of a child, as well as associated crimes such as human trafficking. It also extends the deadline for civil actions for survivors under 18 years old from age 30 to age 55. Those between the ages of 18 and 23 years old now have until they are 30 years old to file a civil lawsuit, and their criminal statute extends 20 years past the offense.

The bill is headed back to the State House, which needs to approve an amendment.

House Bill 963 would amend the the Pennsylvania Constitution to create a two-year window of time for retroactive lawsuits for victims whose statute of limitations has already expired. Since it would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, it would need to pass in identical form during the 2021-22 legislative session by both the House and Senate and then approved by voters on a referendum ballot before it can become law.

House Bills 1051 and 1171 are both headed to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk, where the Democrat is expected to sign each piece of legislation into law.

House Bill 1051 clarifies mandatory reporting standards for suspected cases of abuse and increases penalties for mandated reporters who continue to fail to report suspected child abuse. It would go into effect 60 days after the governor’s signature.

House Bill 1171 ensures survivors who sign non-disclosure statements are not prohibited from speaking with law enforcement regarding their abuse.

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